Ethical and Moral Dilemmas in Today’s Medicine

Medicine, and indeed life, asks us to act with great integrity and responsibility.

As doctors, we have the privilege of meeting people at their most vulnerable, of hearing their intimate stories, of caring for them physically and on many other levels, of helping them to make difficult decisions and being with them as they go through life-changing moments, including the end of life.

To be able to do this, we have to act with absolute integrity, honouring our own bodies and beings and honouring theirs equally, for we are equal partners in their shared care.

To a large degree medicine is a science, but it is an inexact science as people do not always behave in predictable ways, so there is also an art to medicine, especially when faced with problems for which science has no clear answer.

There are times when we are faced with moral and ethical dilemmas where the answers are not necessarily black and white, but more nuanced and influenced by factors other than science, like culture, religion, ideals and beliefs about the nature of life and how to live it.

Some of the problems we face in medicine are very challenging, like how to best spend the health dollar, limiting futile treatment, and assisted suicide. But we as a profession need to come to a collective understanding of how to best deal with these issues, and clarify what our role is, or it may be forced upon us by others who are perhaps less well equipped to make such sensitive decisions.

To be able to do this, we have to live our own lives with great integrity, and bring that same integrity to everything we do, including the practice of medicine. If we live in a way that is true, we will know what to do, for ourselves, and that supports us to know what is true for all those we are privileged to care for.

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