Ethics Refer to the Principles of Conduct which Govern an Individual or a Profession.
Ethics are the Standards (or Rules) of Behavior Governing that
Individual or Profession.
Ethics Vary Depending on the Profession.
I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asclepius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses . . . to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. . . . Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret.
The first requirement for the practicing of professional ethics is a clear understanding of what the ethic is. Basically Hippocrates stated that the purpose of medical practice was to benefit the patient (and do no harm in the process). In the United States this has been reflected by the observation: ” The Patient Comes First” established by William James Mayo, M.D. (1861-1939). He was the son of William Warrall Mayo (1819-1911), founder of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Stated in a more modern context: “Medical Care Must Reflect the Best Interests of the Patient” not the best interests of:
- The Physician
- The Hospital
- The Third Party Payer
- The Insurance System
- The Government
In addition to the concept of “do no harm” are the modern collararies of “do not create more problems than you solve” and, if a specific diagnosis can not be readily made, to not always assume that the fault lies with the patient.
Inherent to the concept of ethics is the understanding that its bodyguard must be truth and integrity. Shown above is the seal of Johns Hopkins University with the motto “The Truth Shall Set You Free.”
A prominent and ongoing example of perverse health ethics has been the case in point of managed care in the United States where, in general, their greatest innovation and creativity has been in increasing premiums, reducing services and twisting truth and integrity in order to justify saying “no.”