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On Being a Doctor |

Smashed Pots

Jack Coulehan, MD, MPH
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8036.

Requests for Single Reprints: Jack Coulehan, MD, MPH, Department of Preventive Medicine, HSC L3-086, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8036; e-mail, jcoulehan@notes.cc.sunysb.edu.

Ann Intern Med. 2009;150(9):650-651. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-150-9-200905050-00015
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This is a tale about restitution. From a moral perspective, I think most of us would agree that we ought to return things that we'e stolen to their rightful owner. But what if the objects at issue have no aesthetic or economic value, and the people you took them from have been dead for several hundred years? Let me pose the question more precisely: Is it morally required to return pottery fragments that you'e taken from an ancient garbage heap? And if, in fact, such a duty exists, just how much effort does a good conscience require of us?





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