Medical Ethics: Context Is the Key Word


Medical Ethics is no different to Ethics, but relates specifically to the doctor-patient relationship. This relationship is based on mutual trusttrust in the doctor’s expertise and knowledge and trust that the patient is consulting the doctor, for his/her/their own health, wellbeing and welfare, without agenda or bias. In other words, the basis of the doctor-patient relationship is one of mutual trust and confidence. Thus, what is imparted between them is held in the strictest confidence. The doctor must act within the law. No third party influence can be brought to bear on this relationship without the patient’s consent. In the case of minors the relationship is between the child’s guardians as well as the doctor who must act within the law. In the category of “elderly” or adult guardianship or advocacy, those appointed and in positions of trust must take the person’s wishes into account if the patient has capacity to make decisions or has indicated their wish prior to any such appointment. Capacity is defined as consistent belief or wish, awareness of what one does not wish for, satisfaction when wishes are respected and fulfilled and the opposite when they are not. Ethical practice is determined by taking context into account in decision-making and ensuring the sanctity of the patient’s rights and wishes. Abuse is just the opposite, where actions taken or not taken are against a person’s wishes. Personal wish determines best interest. Best interest may also be defined in terms of social functioning and psychological wellbeing. Discussion of ethics in terms of General Systems Theory is also addressed, and affects an action on the environment or others, i.e. ethics in the wider medical context may pertain if the person has a contagious disease and a period of quarantine or “isolation” or barrier” nursing is required, and where precedent is given to society’s best interest over the person’s wishes, as part of an educational process and as required for strategic disease management.

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Myers, J. (2014) Medical Ethics: Context Is the Key Word. International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 5, 1030-1045. doi: 10.4236/ijcm.2014.516134.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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