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Dealing with Ethical Issues in Medicine
  • 24 Jan 2017
  • Medical Revision

Ethical dilemmas can be common in the medical industry, as you will no doubt come across sensitive issues on a regular basis. Whether you are studying medicine or you now work in a practice or hospital, there is always the opportunity to talk to tutors or senior colleagues. However, learning to identify and deal with ethical issues on your own can be incredibly helpful. It is likely that you will come across both legal and ethical issues throughout your medical career, so here are just a few tips on dealing with them from us at Pastest.

Recognise the situation

It’s not always easy to recognise that a situation has an ethical issue surrounding it. Unless it is an extreme and unusual case, you may find it difficult to identify when something presents a moral dilemma. For example, more frequent ethical problems include the likes of responding to a relative’s request for information.

Ethical dilemmas tend to emerge where certain principles or morals come into conflict; often you may feel some type of obligation towards the situation.

Break the situation down

One of the critical steps involved in dealing with an ethical issue is being able to identify the significant aspects of the dilemma. You may need to work through the information you know in order to discard anything irrelevant, and concentrate on what is important.

This could involve being able to describe the question that you are looking to answer, as well as identifying the principles needed to deal with it. It might be clear which viewpoint comes first.


Look for additional information and professional guidance

It’s important that you single out the relevant facts to help you solve the dilemma. For example, are you dealing with a young patient? Are they old enough to make decisions, or should it go to the parents?

At any rate, the patient’s views are critical whether they have the capacity to make decisions or not.

There is already a wealth of knowledge out there in regards to ethical issues, and there are so many resources to help doctors in such situations. If you are faced with an ethical dilemma, you can look to a number of medical bodies to help you find a solution, including the GMC and BMA.

Justify the decision made

Each situation is likely to be unique; for example, with an elderly confused patient, you will have to consider both a respect for their choice as well as their welfare. However, both medical students and doctors are not expected to be philosophers and sometimes decisions can be incredibly difficult to make, particularly if you can’t get access to all the right information.

You are expected to act reasonably, and be able to justify the decision made both on an ethical and clinical basis. While you are more than likely going to have someone else on hand to help, it’s good practice to be confronted with ethical issues and become more confident in dealing with them!

  • 24 Jan 2017
  • Medical Revision