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In their daily clinical work, healthcare professionals generally apply what seems to be a double standard for the responsibility of patients. On the one hand, patients are encouraged to take responsibility for lifestyle changes that can improve their chances of good health. On the other hand, when patients fail to follow such recommendations, they are not held responsible for the failure. This seeming inconsistency is explained in terms of the distinction between task responsibility and blame responsibility. The double standard for responsibility is shown to be epistemologically rational, ethically commendable, and therapeutically advantageous. However, this non-blaming approach to patient responsibility is threatened by proposals to assign lower priority in healthcare to patients who are themselves responsible for their disease. Such responsibility-based priority setting requires that physicians assign blame responsibility to their patients, a practice that would run into conflict with the ethical foundations of the patient–physician relationship. Therefore, such proposals should be rejected.
In this series of essays, The Road Less Traveled, noted bioethicists share their stories and the personal experiences that prompted them to pursue the field. These memoirs are less professional chronologies and more descriptions of the seminal touchstone events and turning points that led—often unexpectedly—to their career path.
In 2015, we published an article entitled “The Medicalization of Love,” in which we argued that both good and bad consequences could be expected to follow from love’s medicalization, depending on how the process unfolded. A flurry of commentaries followed; here we offer some preliminary thoughts in reply to the more substantial of the criticisms that were raised. We focus in particular on the nature of love itself as well as the role it plays (or should play) in our lives; we also touch on a number of practical issues concerning the likely effects of any plausible “real-life” love drugs and conclude with a call for careful regulation.