Approaching ethical dilemmas
How to deal with unease and uncertainty
Ethical problems are often a source of unease both for medical students and for doctors.1 They do not usually have right or wrong answers and at some point they will ordinarily involve a choice between harms. Learning to identify ethical problems, and to live with the unease that they bring, while still being able to help patients to make an informed decision, is a vital part of your professional development.2 This article sets out a framework for identifying and working through moral problems that might arise during both your education and practice.
For many of us there is a sure sign that we are confronting an ethical dilemma: unease, that tell tale dip in the stomach. Consider the following scenario (box)
Before going on to look at how a doctor might respond to this it is worth identifying what makes this scenario an ethical dilemma, rather than a problem of