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Ethical Relativism in a Multicultural Society

The multicultural composition of the United States can pose problems for physicians and patients who come from diverse backgrounds. Although respect for cultural diversity mandates tolerance of the beliefs and practices of others, in some situations excessive tolerance can produce harm to patients. Careful analysis is needed to determine which values are culturally relative and which rest on an underlying universal ethical principle. A conception of justice as equality challenges the notion that it is always necessary to respect all of the beliefs and practices of every cultural group.