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Ethical guidelines

This post courtesy of Anne Taylor-Vaisey: Yesterday I posted an abstract about the ACP's new ethics manual. Well, I started looking around for codes of ethics from organizations, and I could have gone on forever. Here is a small selection of health-related Web sites containing ethics policies:


World Medical Association

World Health Organization, Ethics and Health

Operational Guidelines for Ethics Committees That Review Biomedical Research

United States

American Medical Association

American College of Physicians

Snyder L, Leffler C, for the Ethics and Human Rights Committee ACoP. Ethics Manual: Fifth Edition. Ann Intern Med 2005; 142(7):560-582.


Canadian Medical Association, CMA Code of Ethics

Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), AFMC Working Group on Professionalism

College of Family Physicians of Canada, Family Medicine Ethics

Great Britain

General Medical Council, Ethical Guidance

Royal College of Physicians, Medical Professionalism [working group]


Australian Medical Association, Medical Ethics

Selected Articles

Davis M. What can we learn by looking for the first code of professional ethics? Theor Med Bioeth 2003; 24(5):433-454.

Abstract: The first code of professional ethics must:

(1) be a code of ethics;

(2) apply to members of a profession;

(3) apply to all members of that profession; and

(4) apply only to members of that profession.

The value of these criteria depends on how we define "code", "ethics", and "profession", terms the literature on professions has defined in many ways. This paper applies one set of definitions of "code", "ethics", and "profession" to a part of what we now know of the history of professions, thereby illustrating how the choice of definition can alter substantially both our answer to the question of which came first and (more importantly) our understanding

of professional codes (and the professions that adopt them).

Because most who write on codes of professional ethics seem to take for granted that physicians produced the first professional code, whether the Hippocratic Oath, Percival's Medical Ethics, the 1847 Code of Ethics of the American Medical Association (AMA), or some other document, I focus my discussion on these codes.

PubMed link

LaDou J, Tennenhouse DJ, Feitshans IL. Codes of ethics (conduct). Occup Med 2002; 17(4):559-585.

Abstract: Some international organizations and many societies of health and safety professionals have codes of ethics (conduct). The intent is to promote ethical behavior, though compliance is voluntary and enforcement is generally not possible. It is important that all occupational health and safety professionals adopt and live up to the same code. It also is important that the same code of conduct apply to industrializing countries just as it applies to developed countries.

A new International Code of Conduct (Ethics) for Occupational Health and Safety Professionals, developed by 40 international health and safety professionals and set forth in this article, addresses professional obligations and responsibilities and introduces a higher standard of ethical conduct than formerly existed.

PubMed link

Peterson M, Potter RL. A proposal for a code of ethics for nurse practitioners. J Am Acad Nurse Pract 2004; 16(3):116-124.

PURPOSE: To review established codes for health care professionals and standards of practice for the nurse practitioner (NP) and to utilize these codes and standards, general ethical themes, and a new ethical triangle to propose an ethical code for NPs.

DATA SOURCES: Reviews of three generally accepted ethical themes (deontological, teleological, and areteological), the ethical triangle by Potter, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) standards of practice for NPs, and codes of ethics from the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Medical Association (AMA). CONCLUSIONS: A proposal for a code of ethics for NPs is presented. This code was determined by ba! sic ethical themes and established codes for nursing, formulated by the ANA, and for physicians, formulated by the AMA. The proposal was also developed in consideration of the AANP standards of practice for NPs.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: The role of the NP is unique in its ethical demands. The authors believe that the expanded practice of NPs presents ethical concerns that are not addressed by the ANA code and yet are relevant to nursing and therefore different than the ethical concerns of physicians. This proposal attempts to broaden NPs' perspective of the role that ethics should hold in their professional lives.

PubMed link

Snyder L, Leffler C. Ethics manual: fifth edition. Ann Intern Med 2005; 142(7):560-582.

Abstract: Medicine, law, and social values are not static. Reexamining the ethical tenets of medical practice and their application in new circumstances is a necessary exercise. The fifth edition of the College's Ethics Manual covers emerging issues in medical ethics and revisits old ones. It reflects on many of the ethical tensions faced by internists and their patients and attempts to shed light on how existing principles extend to emerging concerns. In addition, by reiterating ethical principles that have provided guidance in resolving past ethical problems, the Manual may help physicians avert future problems. The Manual is not a substitute for the experience and integrity of individual physicians, but it may ser! ve as a reminder of the shared obligations and duties of the medical profession.

PubMed link

Williams JR. Canadian Medical Association's ethics activities. HEC Forum 2004; 16(2):138-151.

PubMed link

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