The concept of object-oriented design and programming has recently received a great deal of attention from the software engineering community. This paper highlights the realisable benefits of using the object-oriented approach in the design and development of clinical decision support systems. These systems seek to build a computational model of some problem domain and therefore tend to be exploratory in nature. Conventional procedural design techniques do not support either the process of model building or rapid prototyping. The central concepts of the object-oriented paradigm are introduced, namely encapsulation, inheritance and polymorphism, and their use illustrated in a case study, taken from the domain of breast histopathology. In particular, the dual roles of inheritance in object-oriented programming are examined, i.e., inheritance as a conceptual modelling tool and inheritance as a code reuse mechanism. It is argued that the use of the former is not entirely intuitive and may be difficult to incorporate into the design process. However, inheritance as a means of optimising code reuse offers substantial technical benefits.