Doctors have been seen throughout history as a pillar of the community. Due respect and admiration are given to the profession of medicine as well as to a doctor’s individual integrity. Because of this, both ethical standards as well as distinct professionalism are expected of them. (Miettinen & Flegel, 2003) Ethics can be defined as a person’s morality as evident in actions. Professionalism means being steadfast and proficient in all aspect of one’s profession. Being in a profession entails competence as well as duty.
A profession is a declared duty to the community. Competence is then measured by certain standards defined by the tenets of one’s profession. (Bryan, 2002) In the medical profession, professionalism is measured by several factors. Altruism, the trait of putting the welfare of other’s above one’s self or in the case of those in the medical profession, the interest of the patient above those of the physician, is encoded and supported by the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath. Accountability is also another trait by which professionalism is measured.
In the medical community, accountability comes for being able to account for ones actions to the patient, the society, and to the requirements of their profession. Excellence in their actions is also a gauge for professionalism in the medical industry. Physicians are expected to continue learning about their profession, throughout their professional life and know all relevant aspects of their field. Duty and respect also define a physician’s professionalism. Duty is identified in accepting a commitment to better a patient, regardless of hours or fee.
Respect for others, for the patient’s, the families and the establishment includes straightforward dealings as well as treating them as persons, not degrading or treating them as if they were of lesser station. (Miettinen & Flegel, 2003) Ethics in the medical profession is defined as being honest, and in the most part, doing the right thing by the patient and the medical establishment. A doctor’s Hippocratic Oath binds the doctor to treat everyone equally as well as to do no harm.
This underlines the four basic principles of ethics in medicine. First is a certain respect for a patient’s autonomy. This principle implies that patients, as rational beings, are bound to act intentionally with comprehension and understanding of the action and its consequence. Second is non maleficence, or the statement that no harm should happen to the patient, through intentional or unintentional acts. This implies a necessity for competence within the medical community. One who commits harm through negligence is liable under the law.
The criteria for establishing negligence is that first, duty must be established, that that duty be breached, that harm occurs to the patient, and that that harm comes as a result of the breach of duty. Another principle is that of Beneficence. It means that the patient must be able to derive the needed benefit from the medical community. The last principle of ethics is justice. It means to each his own. This is again set upon a series of criteria, which takes into consideration need, effort, merit, contribution and equality. Thomas R. McCormick, 1998) In the medical profession, it is always the patient who is first considered, above anything, or everything health. Those who hold in their hand the welfare of others are expected to be competent, committed and fair. Ethics and professionalism is set upon this notion. Ethics whose goal is to bind the professional to the patient and professionalism, which ensures the Doctor’s duty to the profession. Any breach of these, when it occurs is a threat to both patient welfare as well as the welfare of medicine.