December 8, 2022

Why don’t surgeons study medical ethics?

Why don’t surgeons study more medical ethics, asks Daniel Sokol, of Imperial College London, in a provocative article in the BMJ.The Royal College for Surgeons, he notes, has no permanent ethics committee.

Why don’t surgeons study more medical ethics, asks  Daniel Sokol, of Imperial College London, in a provocative article in the BMJ.The Royal College for Surgeons, he notes, has no permanent ethics committee. 

“Surgery is a field brimming with ethical issues: a patient refuses lifesaving surgery on religious grounds or is the victim of an intraoperative error; another has been harmed by a previous doctor but knows nothing of it or has a tumour that is operable but high risk; and yet another mistakenly believes that the operator will be a consultant. There is also the sometimes tenuous link between properly informed consent and that signature on the consent form.”

Perhaps,he suggests, there is little interest because older surgeons believe that ethics should be learned on the job. Or, perhaps because surgeons see few ethical issues in their profession. The idea of more formal training in medical ethics, say young surgeons, “would be received by their colleagues as enthusiastically as the wrong instrument in an operation”.~ BMJ, June 15

Michael Cook
medical ethics
surgery