Review Article

The ethics of positive thinking in healthcare


In continuation with the New Thought movement that arose in the United States in the 19th Century, there is now a massive self-help industry that markets books and seminars. This industry has also extended to healthcare in the form of positive thinking, i.e., the idea that happy thoughts are essential for health. While some of these claims may seem reasonable and commonsensical, they are not free of problems. This article posits that positive thinking has some ethical underpinnings. Extreme positive thinking may promote alternative forms of medicine that ultimately substitute effective treatment, and this is unethical. The emphasis on positive thinking for cancer patients may be too burdensome for them. Likewise, unrestricted positive thinking is not necessarily good for mental health. After considering the ethics of positive thinking, this article proposes a more realistic approach.

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IssueVol 12 (2019) QRcode
SectionReview Article(s)
Positive thinking; Self-help; Cancer; Healthcare; Positive psychology

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How to Cite
Andrade G. The ethics of positive thinking in healthcare. J Med Ethics Hist Med. 12.