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In this paper, we explore the recent emphasis, in various medical contexts, of the term 'critical' or the notion of 'being critical'. We identify various definitions of being critical and note that they differ strikingly. What are these different uses of the term trying to capture that is important in clinical medicine and medical education? We have analysed these qualities as responsibilist, epistemic virtues. We believe that a virtues approach is best able to make sense of the non-cognitive elements of 'being critical', such as the honesty and courage to question claims in the face of persuasion, authority or social pressure. Medical educators and professional bodies seem to agree that being critical is important and desirable. Yet, it is unclear how this quality can be optimally fostered and balanced with the constraints that act upon individual practitioners in the context of institutional medicine including professional standards and the demands of the doctor-patient relationship. Other constraints such as authoritarianism, intimidation and financial pressures may act against the expression of being critical or even the cultivation of critical thinking. The issue of the constraints on critical thinking and the potential hazards it entails will require further consideration by those who encourage being critical in medicine. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Mona Gupta, Ross Upshur. Critical thinking in clinical medicine: what is it? Journal of evaluation in clinical practice. 2012 Oct;18(5):938-44

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PMID: 22994988

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