Diminished capacity, friendship, and medical paternalism: Two case studies from fiction

Edmund L. Erde, Anne Hudson Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We consider the moral and social ingredients in physicians' relationships with patients of diminished capacity by considering certain claims made about friendship and the physician's role. To assess these claims we look at the life context of two patients as elaborated examples provided in two novels: Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) by Marge Piercy, a radical feminist; and It's Hard to Leave While the Music's Playing (1977) by I. S. Cooper, a prominent physician-researcher. At issue is how the doctor-patient relationship should be structured. In question is whether the physician's friendship and professional expertise, together with the diminished capacity of the patient, authorize medical paternalism. From our examination, we find compelling insights against appealing to friendship both in good doctor-patient relationships and in more typical, not-so-good ones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-322
Number of pages20
JournalTheoretical Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1983


  • Diminished capacity
  • Fiction
  • Friendship
  • Institution of medicine
  • Medical paternalism
  • Neighborliness
  • Physician-patient relationship
  • Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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