International Medical Graduates
Ethics and Professionalism
As defined by Webster's Dictionary, ethics is a theory or system of moral values. In even plainer language, it is what we should do and why. Certain principles are key to doing medical ethics, especially when the issues involve interactions between physician and patient: beneficence-- the duty to do good and to act in the best interest of others; non-maleficence-- the duty to do no harm; respect for autonomy and the individual's right of bodily self-determination; and justice, with a focus on considerations of fair treatment and distribution of resources. Ethical issues in health care are important and compelling in part because they illustrate how real people in real world situations make hard choices about vital matters. Although gene therapy, animal-to-human organ transplantation, and other highly controversial issues often get a lot of press and other attention, more routine bioethics issues like informed consent, caring for dying patients, and conflicts of interest are often the more relevant ones for practitioners and their patients.
For more information about ethics and professionalism, go to http://www.acponline.org/running_practice/ethics/manual/.
Lois Snyder, JD is Director of the Center for Ethics and Professionalism at the American College of Physicians. She is also Adjunct Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics. She is a frequent writer and speaker on health care policy, bioethical, end-of-life care and medical-legal issues.
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