Title: Medical Ethics: History and Guiding Principles
Author: Alan J. McGoldrick
Course: Medicine, Disease and History
Instructor: Professor Foss
Date: June 15, 2012
Medical ethics are the moral guidelines and ethical laws that help to prioritize a medical professional's work responsibilities. The code of medical ethics outlines the proper conduct between medical professionals and their patients, communities, and colleagues. Each country has a different code of medical ethics, though most contain the same basic principles, and all share the same history of evolution, according to the World Medical Association.
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The Enlightenment Period
During the intellectual revolution of the eighteenth century, numerous medical advances took place in the West, including the publishing of the first book discussing medical ethics. Thomas Percival, a British physician, published his book "Code of Medical Ethics," in the year 1803. (Porter, 1998) At nearly the same time, medical students attending the University of Pennsylvania began to be lectured by physician Benjamin Rush regarding the importance of medical ethics.
In 1847, the American Medical Association was formed in order to establish a definite code of medical ethics because no government laws established medical regulations. The first code of ethics established the line between modern medical practitioners and homeopathic and faith-based healers, in addition to further defining proper medical conduct and relationships between medical professionals and their patients. (American Medical Association, 2012)
Modern codes of medical ethics are revised and replaced when ethical issues arise and create concern. Because medical ethics are an important area of study for medical professionals, more than 25 universities across Canada and the United States provide graduate degree programs in the field of medical ethics. Modern codes are published yearly with later editions including the most current guidelines. The books are written and revised by the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs of the American Medical Association.
The Hippocratic tradition
Medical ethics generally traces its origins to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460–377 BC), who is credited with defining the first ethical standard in medicine: "Do no harm." The oath attributed to Hippocrates was traditionally recited by medical students as part of their medical school's graduation ceremonies. (Porter, 1998) A modernized version of the Hippocratic Oath that has been approved by the American Medical Association (AMA) reads as follows:
* You do solemnly swear, each by whatever he or she holds most sacred
* That you will be loyal to the Profession of Medicine and just and generous to its members
* That you will lead your lives and practice your art in uprightness and honor
* That into whatsoever house you shall enter, it shall be for the good of the sick to the utmost of your power, your holding yourselves far aloof from wrong, from corruption, from the tempting of others to vice
* That you will exercise your art solely for the cure of your patients, and will give no drug, perform no operation, for a criminal purpose, even if solicited, far less suggest it
* That whatsoever you shall see or hear of the lives of men or women which is not fitting to be spoken, you will keep inviolably secret
These things do you swear. Let each bow the head in sign of acquiescence. And now, if you will be true to this your oath, may prosperity and good repute be ever yours; the opposite, if you...