Are based on Christian ethics

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6969.1658 (Published 17 December 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1658
  1. Mark Houghton,
  2. P A Wilkinson
  1. Chairman, Sheffield group of Christian Medical Fellowship Sheffield S10 3LS.
  2. Secretary, Sheffield group of Christian Medical Fellowship Sheffield S10 4EF.

    EDITOR,—It is encouraging to see the profession discussing its core values, with the lead given by the chief medical officer1 and the summit meeting reported by Richard Smith.2 Coincidentally, the Sheffield group of the Christian Medical Fellowship held a day conference in the midlands on 5 November to discuss “foundations and the future.” Many of the core values that we agreed were identical with those highlighted by Smith-namely, “caring, integrity, competence, confidentiality, and a high standard of ethics.” We particularly identified with Professor David Morrell's plea that the doctor-patient relationship should be “a real human relationship based on love, caring, and sharing.”

    Our discussions, however, went one stage further: we asked where these core values come from and how they can be sustained in the future. Perhaps we have become so used to the Judaeo-Christian principles that have inspired our profession for centuries that we assume that they will always be there. These values do not arise from scientific medicine itself, nor are they the “natural” attributes of doctors, who are mere humans. If the clergy do “escape into a niche market,” as Sir Maurice Stock suggested,2 and we lose the unique inspiration of Christ's example of love and service the future could be very different. After all, we have experience in this century of how the abandonment of the Christian ethics led to the tragedies of Nazi Germany. It would be folly to rely on mere tradition or the native assumption that doctors are somehow different from the rest of humanity.

    To maintain the profession's core values in the future an inspiration and an ethic that can withstand the pressures ahead are needed. We, like many others, have found this in the Christian faith.


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