What demands can we place on physicians during the COVID-crisis?


Physicians have a responsibility to protect patients’ autonomy, do no harm, to do good and to divide resources fairly. But how these ethical principles are interpreted in practice can differ from physician to physicians. For whom are they supposed to do good, for example? For the patient, a patient group or society as a whole? With limited resources and large demand, these questions are more crucial than ever. And different interpretation can create conflict.  

“Some draw the lines for their ethical responsibilities more narrowly, and consider there to be a certain number or obligations they have to fulfil. Others have a wider, more flexible interpretation” says Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist, senior lecturer in biomedical ethics who also teaches ethics to future medical doctors at Uppsala University, in an interview with Morgon i P4 Stockholm.

Differences in interpretation of the ethical principles guiding the work could be one of the reasons we are now seeing some physicians report that they feel forced to work with Covid-patients and experience a feeling of injustice when others are granted permission to leave Covid-care units.

“During a crisis, there is more focus on the principles of ‘doing good’ and ‘fairness’. The situation is put to a head and it becomes clear that there are different perceptions of what ethical responsibilities you have as a physician” Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist says.

Listen to the interview, it starts at 01:20:00 (in Swedish)

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Last modified: 2022-01-10