Four Guidelines for Ethical Conduct
Like millions of people this spring, I had the opportunity to attend the graduation of a family member. Aside from seeing my nephew graduate as a doctor, a second treat for me that day was, surprisingly, hearing a wonderful keynote address by Darrel. G. Kirch, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Medical Colleges. Dr. Kirch followed the formula for successful commencement speakers: “be bold, be brief, and be seated.” He added another factor, “be inspiring,”and spoke about four principles of medical ethics that have stood the test of time and may serve as guideposts for young doctors. In my opinion, these four principles of clinical ethics are relevant to insurance professionals and I am passing them along for your consideration:
- Do Good: Being a physician is more than just having a well-compensated job with a high social status. At the heart of a true physician is a passion and a deep desire to do good. Physicians sometimes serve with little compensation and under difficult circumstances. A medical missionary or a family doctor who made house calls in the past might have received little in terms of monetary compensation and have been motivated by their deep desire to do good.
- Do No Harm: Often, a physician will need to decide between intervention and comfort, especially in the last stages of life. Making a decision to use certain drugs and techniques may have serious and irreversible side effects, and the cure may be worse than the condition.
- Justice: As defined by Dr. Kirch, justice means a professional obligation to make sure the system works.Examples were provided to show that the United States leads the world in medical research, drug development, clinical testing, surgical procedures, diagnostic equipment usage and development, and other aspects of medicine. However, by many measures—including infant mortality—it is clear that the United States does not lead the world in delivery systems for the majority of citizens.