Between professional values, social regulations and patient preferences: medical doctors' perceptions of ethical dilemmas

In a study recently published in Journal of Medical Ethics the authors – Berit Bringedal, Karin Isaksson Rø, Morten Magelssen, Reidun Førde and Olaf Gjerløw Aasland – showes that viewing dilemmas as role conflicts can be a fruitful approach to the discussions about ethical dilemmas in professional practice.

This article is based on data from LEFO's Doctor Panel / Legepanelet.   

Bringedal B, Isaksson Rø K, Magelssen M, Førde R, Aasland OG. Between professional values, social regulations and patient preferences: medical doctors' perceptions of ethical dilemmas. J Med Ethics. 2017 Published online Nov 18. pii: medethics-2017-104408. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2017-104408. Epub ahead of print.

Abstract in PubMed:
BACKGROUND: We present and discuss the results of a Norwegian survey of medical doctors' views on potential ethical dilemmas in professional practice.
METHODS: The study was conducted in 2015 as a postal questionnaire to a representative sample of 1612 doctors, among which 1261 responded (78%). We provided a list of 41 potential ethical dilemmas and asked whether each was considered a dilemma, and whether the doctor would perform the task, if in a position to do so. Conceptually, dilemmas arise because of tensions between two or more of four doctor roles: the patient's advocate, a steward of societal interests, a member of a profession and a private individual.
RESULTS: 27 of the potential dilemmas were considered dilemmas by at least 50% of the respondents. For more than half of the dilemmas, the anticipated course of action varied substantially within the professional group, with at least 20% choosing a different course than their colleagues, indicating low consensus in the profession.
CONCLUSIONS: Doctors experience a large range of ethical dilemmas, of which many have been given little attention by academic medical ethics. The less-discussed dilemmas are characterised by a low degree of consensus in the profession about how to handle them. There is a need for medical ethicists, medical education, postgraduate courses and clinical ethics support to address common dilemmas in clinical practice. Viewing dilemmas as role conflicts can be a fruitful approach to these discussions.

Read the article in full text version via this link (with access by Helsebiblioteket, Norway).

Contact us for more information.

Les mer (in Norwegian):

  • Bringedal B. Verdikonflikter, rollekonflikter og profesjonell atferd. Tidsskr Nor Legeforen 2018; 138: 177.
  • Intervju med Berit Bringedal om studien signert LEFOs forskere: - Legene er uenige om etiske dilemmaer, Mari Rian Hanger, Dagens Medisin, 11.1.2018, s. 30-31 (kun tilgjengelig i papirversjon).