Medical Professionalism

Patients need good doctors. Good doctors uphold standards of medical professionalism by making the care of their patients their first concern. Good doctors are competent, keep their knowledge and skills up to date, establish and maintain good relationships with patients and colleagues, are honest and trustworthy, and act with integrity and within the law.

Good doctors work in partnership with patients and other healthcare practitioners, honour their patients’ rights to privacy and dignity, and treat each patient with respect. They do their best to make sure all patients receive good care and treatment that will support them to live as well as possible, whatever their illness or disability.

When Do Professional Duties begin? (Open Access)

This topic deals with when exactly the practitioner-patient relationship begins. This issue is important, because the practitioner’s legal and ethical duties towards a patient arise when the practitioner-patient relationship comes into existence.

What are the types of practitioner-patient relationship in modern medicine?

This topic deals with issues which arise in respect of circumstances where practitioners are engaged by third parties such as insurance companies, employers and statutory bodies such as the Road Accident Fund. 

When do practitioners’ professional duties towards patients end?

Having accepted a patient for treatment, the practitioner’s duty towards the patient includes the duty to provide reasonable post-operative care or to reasonably follow up on the patient.

But when does this duty end?

What duties do patients have?

In all relationships, duties and obligations cannot only flow in one direction. The practitioner-patient relationship is no exception. 

Practitioners’ health as an aspect of medical professionalism

Stretched resources and unspoken pressure for practitioners to work long hours lead practitioners to be unwilling to disclose any illness or health-related issues, or take time off from work to properly rest.

This has an extremely negative effect on the health of many practitioners.

Breakdown of the practitioner-patient relationship

The practitioner-patient relationship can break down for many reasons. Where the relationship between patient and practitioner deteriorates to the point that it is not healthy and constructive, it is unlikely to be in anybody’s interests that the relationship continue.

But how should the relationship be terminated, and what factors should be considered when doing so?

How do personal beliefs affect medical practice?

Personal beliefs and cultural practices are central to the lives of healthcare practitioners and patients, and all practitioners have personal values that have an effect on their day-to-day practice.

This topic explores what practitioners should do when there is a conflict between the two.

Avoiding improper relationships

This topic deals with the issue of avoiding improper relationships with patients, and discusses the appropriate way to handle issues which arise in this regard.

Patients’ personal beliefs affecting their healthcare

This topic deals with the effect which patients’ personal beliefs may have on their treatment.

How has the practitioner-patient relationship changed in recent years?

The practitioner-patient relationship has changed substantially over the past few decades.

This topic explores the evolving nature of the relationship.

When should the presence of a chaperone be considered?

There are circumstances in which the patient or the practitioner (or both) may want to have a chaperone present when a consultation or examination takes place.

This topic deals with the question of the use of a chaperone in those circumstances.

Disclosure where health practitioners have dual responsibilities

This topic deals with practitioners’ conflicts of interest.

Tips for new doctors

This topic contains advice for those new to practise.

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Avoiding abuse of the practitioner’s position

Practitioners have access to considerable information about, and control over, their patient’s lives. This places great responsibility in the hands of practitioners.