Webster’s states, “a professional is characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession.” And, Postema, Gerald J. (1980). “Moral responsibility in professional ethics.” (PDF). NYUL Rev. 55. Retrieved March 26, 2016 proclaims (they), “self-subjugate themselves to strict codes of conduct enshrining rigorous ethical and moral constraints that serve important aspects of public interest for the betterment of society.” As I entered my lifelong ambition of becoming a doctor, each component meant a tremendous deal to me. Occasionally, I wonder if all these factors are still being met.
The educational and skill training is still present, however, what is accomplished when evidence-based guidelines are not followed? How should we view our professional societies when they reference the same information and suggest different care protocols? Both of these situations impact our professionalism.
As we contemplate the ethical and moral obligation to which we should hold ourselves accountable, how often have we uttered, “Although, I realize that care is futile, nonetheless the family requests it.” Or, “Worried that a lawsuit is a possibility, I decided to do something that in all likelihood has no value.” It is incumbent that doctors stand up for what we believe is ethical and moral, acknowledging the conundrums we face, yet not relinquishing our obligation to society even though the conversations may be difficult.
The question of what is needed for the common good is arduous and requires exceptional thought and discernment. Is it a greater good to treat the individual as if he is the only subject that matters, or should we treat her within the context of our larger society? Such questions should drive us to seek models that not only support the health and well-being of individuals, but also have the same focus on the betterment of our entire community. As a profession and, as professionals, it is imperative that we ponder these matters on a regular basis and openly discuss these polarities. Far from shirking the responsibility, it is compulsory that we address these questions and champion the conversations. Let’s focus ourselves simultaneously around our skills and higher order issues that our profession can articulate in a manner that helps those that we have been given the privilege and blessing to serve.
We as a medical profession have so much to give and must not turn a cheek to the difficulty of the conversations. Instead, let’s embrace obstacles and lead the discussion. We are professionals with an immense responsibility. Our vocation and calling surpasses simply providing care; let us provide the leadership and thoughtfulness needed and desired by our communities.