People who discuss medical ethics or bioethics come to very different conclusions about the levels of agreement in the field and the implications of consensus among health care professionals. In this paper I argue that these disagreements turn on a confusion of two distinct senses of medical ethics. I differentiate (1) medical ethics as a subject in applied ethics from (2) medical ethics as the professional moral commitments of health care professions. I then use the distinction to explain its significant implications for medical ethics education. Drawing on the recent work of John Rawls, I also show the centrality of philosophy in medical ethics by illustrating how contemporary philosophy can be used to construct an ethical framework for the medical professions.

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