Does real altruism exists?

I believe that real altruism does in fact exist. When I first read this prompt the first thought that came to mind was altruism within the medical field. I have always wanted to do something with medicine & I also took a class on medical ethics last year which brought about many topics such as euthanasia and abortion. These are Hard topics to speak about but when thinking about the doctors who must perform some of these emotionally draining procedures should have to be altruistic. With euthanasia, many times the patient is the one who wants to undergo the life taking actions the doctor then must do because the patient feels as if their quality of life just isn’t enough. While the attending on the case has, the final say, other opinions are taken into consideration before the patient is taken off whatever kind of support they might be on. That being daily oxygen or even life support if the patient is competent enough to make these decisions for them self. The doctor who is on the patient might be totally against euthanasia but because they have a duty to help the patient and this being what the patient wants, ethically, the procedure must be followed through with. A doctor’s main job is to provide healthcare and focus on the wellbeing of others. A patient choosing to be euthanized usually has a life-threatening disease, something that is totally unbearable resulting in a low quality of life. As a doctor on a euthanasia case, there is really nothing to gain personally, which is the definition of altruism. As stated in an article by BMJ Careers, altruism might be a declining characteristic within the medical field, but “must be continued to be taught to prevent demoralization and burnout” (WICKS, NOOR, RAJARTNAM). Altruism has also been an inherent characteristic for doctors since the Hippocratic Oath, the article also stated. Wanting to be a doctor or anything in the medical field should never be about the money that will be made, it should always be about wanting to help people. A personal experience I have is, I traveled to Greece this summer to shadow surgeons in a local hospital. Greece is in an economic crisis right now but people still need hospital care. Many of the doctors there, I worked closely with oncologist, work for discounted price and even pro bono. If the doctors there didn’t have the drive and altruistic attitude, then the people all over Greece would not be able to get the necessary health care.

Article: Wicks , Laurence, et al. “BMJ Careers – Altruism and Medicine.” The UK’s Leading Medical Recruitment and Careers Website, 21 July 2011,


“Altruism has been thought of as an ego defense, a form of sublimation in which a person copes with his anxiety by stepping outside himself and helping others” (#1). Therefore, I would not believe that true altruism exists. Everyone could feel like doing a good deed for someone every once in a while but no one has a pure heart. I don’t think that it is possible for everyone to feel this way all of the time. I know this because of the way I feel. I do a lot for others even when they don’t deserve it and I don’t expect anything in return; but some days I like to keep to myself and not try to please everyone. According to Psychology Today, “many psychologists and philosophers have argued that there is, in fact, no such thing as true altruism” (#1). They have a reason to feel this way. “In The Dawn, the 19thcentury philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche maintains that which is erroneously called ‘pity’ is not selfless but variously self-motivated” (#1). It says that Aristotle feels pity for people who are like him and for the people he is getting to know; but not for the people who are related to him. This proves that true altruism doesn’t exist. I also believe that most people in the moment will say or think that they are doing it out of kindness but when it comes down to it they are expecting something from them in the future. The thought of altruism has been around for a long time and there are many questions that come along with this thought. Questions like, “Would we be altruistic if we didn’t have a sense of fairness? Is the one a prerequisite for the other (#2)? In The Atlantic, it says that it starts in us when we are young but ends up changing when we start to think more about it and I agree. If a baby or young child is introduced to fairness they are more likely to be more altruistic. It is possible that babies are more likely to act upon this because they don’t know much about it and don’t think about it as deeply as adults do. If fairness is part of a person’s nature, then they are more likely to be altruistic. This shows that some people are introduced to this and some people aren’t and this is what leads me to believe that true altruism does not exist.


(#1) Burton, Neel. “Does True Altruism Exist?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Mar. 2012, Accessed 11 Sept. 2017.

(#2) Walton, Alice G. “Does Altruism Actually Exist?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 9 Nov. 2011, Accessed 11 Sept. 2017.