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24 October, 2006

Amoral

The Guardian reports that a 'tougher ethical code' is to be 'imposed on doctors'.  Apparently, "misbehaviour at home could mean loss of licence".

What's meant by 'misbehaviour'?  Whose definition is to be used?

I totally, totally oppose this. What a doctor does in his or her private life is entirely private, and no-one else's business unless it directly affects his or her job. End of subject.

It's said that:

Public meetings were held across the UK to find out what sort of behaviour from doctors was acceptable and what was not. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, there were strong feelings that doctors ought to behave better than most people. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, there were strong feelings that doctors ought to behave better than most people.
It doesn't matter; the fact public meetings were held is utterly irrelevant. This isn't a matter for surveys and public opinion – society doesn't get to decide how individuals behave in private. Unless such activities are downright illegal for justifiable, entirely practical reasons, of course, but that applies to anyone, not solely medics.
People might well like to put health professionals on some sort of pedestal, and regard them as authority figures, but people have no right to that expectation. Medics working within the National Health Service are, arguably, publicly-accountable whilst on duty. Off duty, they're private individuals, and could do whatever they want.

Beyond the sensationalism implicit in the article's opening paragraphs, the underlying story isn't quite so invasive, and addresses genuine issues of patient protection and acceptable social behaviour.
For example, it's reasonable for doctors to carefully consider the appropriateness of sexual relationships with vulnerable ex-patients, and to avoid viewing p*rnography at work. That's somewhat less alarmist than the Guardian's initial claim that:

A code published yesterday holds doctors to the highest standards of moral behaviour in their private life, with their right to practise at risk if they form sexual relationships with former patients or view pornography.
Society has no right to hold doctors to any standard of moral behaviour in their private life, beyond that expected of any citizen.

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