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Medical Ethics – Myths and Facts

Updated on August 17, 2014
Ethics in Medical Practice
Ethics in Medical Practice

The laws of medical ethics formulate the guiding principles of ethical practice. They indeed prompt the practicing physicians to follow the adequate path to render their dedicated services to the ailing patients. The moral responsibility of the clinician lies in considering the consequences of patients’ illnesses that can adversely influence their family’s survival and economic stability.

Physicians in deed have an ethical obligation to formulate their best and cost-effective therapies, and execute fair and unbiased medical decision-making process for their patients. However, the rendered therapy is successful with the adherence of patients to the provided prescription. The reluctance of the patients in following the medical advice may result in the presumption of inadvertent decision-making capacity of the practicing physician.

The moral and legal duty of the practicing physician is to ensure his patients remain informed about their illnesses and given the right and choice to acquire and practice their opinion regarding the offered health care services. This autonomy does not give them the right to alter the medical advice or create hindrance in the medical decision-making by the physician. Indeed, the norms of medical ethics safeguard the patients’ rights to make choices in their own healthcare; conversely do not encourage them to challenge the services by qualified healthcare professionals or question the credibility of the medical fraternity.

The affectionate touch of the physician enhances patient’s healing process by boosting his stamina and desire to overcome the pain and discomfort from the prevailing illness. The ethical conduct of the treating physician safeguards the rights of the patient and helps to generate trust and confidence that proportionately influences the restoration of health following the treatment regimen.

The historical “Hippocratic Oath” (by the Greek physician Hippocrates) emphasizes the practitioners of medicine to follow the footsteps of the great healers of ancient times and never become reluctant in sharing the scientific and clinical knowledge with their fellow physicians. They must consistently gain and utilize clinical skills for working towards their patients health and recovery. The prevention of disease should always be preferred over cure following the ethical practice of medicine.

The foremost priority of a physician is the protection of health and life of the ailing individuals. On the other hand, autonomy of the patients should be given due consideration while executing the therapeutic interventions. The physician should essentially obtain informed consent of the patient prior to rendering the necessary therapeutic regimen. Additionally, the practitioner must not be reluctant in addressing patient’s concerns, questions and clarifications regarding the offered remedy.

Both physicians and patients should understand the demarcation between the myths and facts of medical ethics for avoiding any ethical or legal conflict during or after the treatment process. The American Medical Association (AMA) formulated the code of medical ethics at their first convention in 1847. The AMA thoroughly reviewed, discussed and revised the Hippocratic Principles for their practical implementation across the globe. Perspectives on sensitive issues like euthanasia (physician-assisted suicide), human experimentation, abortion, brain death, withdrawal of life support systems and organ transplantation clarified to avoid the ethical dilemmas. In fact, AMA periodically revises the guiding principles of medical ethics and its present version emphasizes to safeguard the human dignity and honesty in medical practice.

Declaration of Geneva 1 adopted in 1948 by the 2nd General Assembly of the World Medical Association as a modern equivalent of Hippocratic Oath and amended further in 1968 and 1983. The declaration obliged medical professionals to refrain from the considerations of patient’s age, disease, disability, ethnic origin, political affiliation, gender, nationality and race during medical practice.

The practicing physicians are required to remain compliant in protecting the patients’ confidential health information and respect their privacy and dignity. Their conduct should be over and above any kind of discrimination that may affect their professional relationship with the patients and consequently the provided treatment. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) 2 of 1996 elaborated administrative simplification provisions (by the Department of Health and Human Services of United States) for acquiring national standards to regulate the use and disclosure of protected health information (PHI) of patients undergoing medical care.

The code of medical ethics directs the physicians for not keeping their self-interests active while treating patients to retain high standards of care in medical practice. Their professional bonding with the patients should facilitate the healing process with the consumption of least time and resources.

Clinical negligence of any kind hampers the doctor-patient relationship and results in the breach of professional duty. The physicians should retain fairness and justice while treating the patients in their medical fraternity. With the technological advancement, the quality of patients care is considerably improved and expected to flourish further with the continuous gain of scientific and medical knowledge through research and development.

Today's physicians are in fact competent in their specialties of medical care; however, consistent emphasis is required on the relevance of medical ethics in clinical practice.


1. WMA Declaration of Geneva, 2nd General Assembly of the World Medical Association, Geneva, Switzerland, September 1948

2. HIPAA Administrative Simplification Statute and Rules, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services


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