Does a patient’s trauma history ethically justify a discriminatory clinical referral?

John R. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article analyzes a child psychiatrist’s referral approach when the patient’s care must be transferred to an adult psychiatrist and the otherwise best adult psychiatrist has “accented” language, which is associated with the patient’s prior trauma. The analysis considers the value of simplicity and a related “simplicity strategy,” revealing that many ethical factors lay behind the simplicity approach. The inquiry then addresses simplicity regarding practical wisdom and context. The paper argues that simplicity should mean considering just what’s relevant and no more. Applied to the case, simplicity includes respect for persons, openness, honesty, trustworthiness, beneficence, nonmaleficence, ethics of care, professional empathy, group inquiry, epistemic humility, and justice. An objection regarding undue complexity is noted and refuted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E493-E498
JournalAMA Journal of Ethics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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