Ethics for Rhetoric, the Rhetoric of Ethics, and Rhetorical Ethics in Health and Medicine

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Raquel Baldwinson


Should, and could, the rhetoric of health and medicine (RHM) develop a professional disciplinary code of ethics? In this commentary, I argue that RHM has special need for a code of ethics, but that we encounter unique barriers to codification. These barriers arise not because we are not ethical, but because we are distinctively ethical. By analyzing the rhetoric of the professional disciplinary code of ethics as a genre, it becomes evident that codes have the potential to restrict a humanities field’s ethical discourse to the domain of academic research and to limit its participation in the domains of health and medicine. Subsequently, I levy that certain generic conventions of the code of ethics do not adequately meet our needs as a health humanities field. I raise, instead, the possibility of an alternative statement of ethics that better mediates the health and humanities divide. Towards the feasibility of this prospect, I begin to theorize the notion of a “rhetorical ethics”: a conceptualization of RHM as a distinctive and legitimate approach to ethical discourse in health and medicine.

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Author Biography

Raquel Baldwinson, Harvard University, University of British Columbia

Raquel Baldwinson is a PhD Candidate in the Department of English at the University of British Columbia, a Friedman Scholar for Studies in Health, and a Visiting Fellow at the Department of History of Science at Harvard University.