Biomedical ethics: The basic principles
In the first part of our new series, Pierre Mallia explains the basic principles of ethics
- By: Pierre Mallia
Doctors are often confronted with ethical dilemmas. From not respecting patients' autonomy by not complying with a request for an antibiotic to deciding who should get a scarce resource such as a kidney, ethical dilemmas are found everywhere from primary care surgeries to hospital settings. In bioethics, moral problems raised by new medical technologies are debated. In this series I will consider topics including organ transplantation, genetic engineering, assisted suicide, assisted procreation, and patient rights. To discuss these issues we first need a set of principles--ground rules--which can guide our discussion and on which there is general agreement.
Medical ethics are often construed as “old” and “new.”1 Old medical ethics were basically a list of do's and don'ts for the doctor and were based on professional authorities, which determined their own ethics. The primary ethical principle was the benefit of the patient. As long as the doctor was serving the