Meeting the ethical needs of doctors

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7494.741 (Published 31 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:741
  1. Daniel K Sokol, doctoral candidate in medical ethics (daniel.sokol@imperial.ac.uk)
  1. Medical Ethics Unit, Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, Imperial College, London W6 8RP

    We need clinical ethicists in addition to other measures

    A sound knowledge of medical ethics is essential to the good practice of medicine. This belief underlies the integration of medical ethics into the teaching of medical students, the proliferation of articles and textbooks on the subject, the increasing number of clinical ethics committees in NHS trusts, and the BMJ's new series on medico-ethical problems in everyday practice.15 These are all indications that medical ethics constitutes an important component of medical practice. But even more conclusive evidence exists that doctors need help with ethical problems.

    The BMA receives several thousand enquiries each year from concerned doctors confronted with ethical issues.6 No doubt many more doctors do not make use of the BMA's services through lack of time or embarrassment. Some doctors, especially if junior, may not wish to rock the boat by pointing to an ethically dubious practice. House officers, for example, may not feel comfortable obtaining consent from a patient for an unfamiliar procedure, but they may feel even more awkward raising the issue with a consultant. Others simply fail to identify the ethical problems pervading their day to day …

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