Doctors are ‘professionals’ and should leave religion out of it

As if to illustrate Rosamond Rhodes’s thesis (see other BioEdge article), Udo Schuklenk argues, also in the Journal of Medical Ethics, that doctors should not use religious language and considerations in their advice to patients. They are obliged to communicate “by means of content that is expressed in public reason-based language” because they are professionals.

Unlike public officials, doctors are part of a profession that is to a significant extent self-governing. This holds true for all professions. The medical profession’s rules of conduct are to a large extent self-given…

Today, doctors’ professionalism charters are uncontroversially secular in nature. For instance, the European Federation of Internal Medicine, the American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine, and the American Board of Internal Medicine issued a joint physician professionalism charter, the values of which are based on secular ethics. It states unequivocally that ‘professionalism is the basis of medicine's contract with society.

… when doctors are seeing a patient in their professional role, the healthcare professionals’ private life, and that includes their ideological, non-professional commitments, should be kept out of their professional life and conduct.

It appears that Schuklenk and Rhodes share the same desire to shatter the “common morality” paradigm. As a profession, medicine has its own rules, its own governance and its own ethics.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge


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