Professionalism in healthcare consists of inseparable technical and ethical aspects. As healthcare professionals, we publicly avow that we are competent and willing to care for the sick, and we also vow that we will make this endeavor our way of life. To do this, we make a commitment to moral goodness and subordinating our own self-interests to the patient's good. Gaining competence in the art of healthcare requires years of intensive, systematic and intellectually rigorous study in a broad range of specialties. This pursuit of learning continues throughout our careers as we continually acquire new knowledge and improve our skills. It is the application of this knowledge, experience and clinical judgment to an individual patient that creates the art of healthcare.
Our patient decisions should arise from virtuous character in conformity with prudence in the principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, respect for persons and justice. Excellent care must always be given, even if there is personal cost or physical danger. We have the moral responsibility to respect the worth and dignity of patients, who at all times are our equals as persons. In medical practice, interventions and recommendations are chosen to accommodate the patient’s perspective, as health is integrally related to the patient’s life goals, needs and personal values. Our primary goals as healthcare professionals are to preserve and restore health, to comfort or relieve suffering and always to care. We must be vigilant to avoid harm, whether that be adverse outcomes or the use of immoral means to desired ends.
Addressing Issues of Moral Complicity: When? Where? Why? and Other Questions
Robert Orr, MD, CM