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Institute for Medical Ethics faces up to flood of dilemmas

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 28 June 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1849
  1. Dr Linda Emanuel
  1. who heads the AMA's Institute for Medical Ethics, wants “to reinstate ethics to the core daily practice of medicine.” She tells Terri Rutter how this can be achieved.

    After a long career in research and teaching in ethics at Harvard Medical School, Dr Emanuel came to the American Medical Association (AMA) in 1996 as vice president of the ethics standards division. She began working on a framework for creating the Institute for Medical Ethics as a place to design practical, accessible methods for incorporating ethics into–or back into–medical professionalism. “The AMA allows us to be advocates for professionalism,” said Dr Emanuel. “Ethics provide a moral anchor for physicians,” she added, “without them, physicians become unanchored.”

    The doctor and patient relationship has never before been confronted with such ethically challenging issues as those that have emerged in the past 10 years, said Dr Emanuel. Medical technologies barely imaginable two decades ago can now prolong a life artificially, long after the brain has shut down, forcing difficult decisions about end of life care. Similarly, the advancement of the delivery of health care towards a market driven system in the United States has raised new issues about the accountability and responsibility of doctors. These are just two of the biomedical and social issues that the institute wants to address, but they are issues that Dr Emanuel has been thinking about for …

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