This paper will discuss the role of compassion in ethics in general and in healthcare ethics in particular. My thesis is that compassion:
1) as Rousseau pointed out, is a natural trait common to all higher animals (human as well as nonhuman);
2) can and does serve as one of the most important motivators and modulators of ethics in both theoretical and applied aspects;
3) must be controlled by, and in turn control, reason if it is to serve its ethical as well as natural purposes; and
4) as a natural trait has survival value and, by virtue of being a natural trait, cannot be an obligation although there may very well be an obligation to do all that is necessary to nurture and not crush this sentiment.