Doctors are second-most trusted profession, according to Medical Council survey
Conscientious objection, the use of social media, and innovations in healthcare – such as telemedicine – are among the issues covered in new Medical Council guidelines for doctors launched this month.
The ninth edition of the Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners also provides guidance for doctors when acting as expert witnesses, and around the responsible use of healthcare resources.
The guide explains that, while a clinician may refuse to carry out a lawful procedure, they must follow a number of practices in doing so. These include informing colleagues and the patient involved as soon as possible, providing information and making arrangements for the patient to be treated elsewhere, and ensuring that this is done in a timely manner, without any obstruction to the patient’s access to the procedure.
The publication also states that doctors ‘must provide care, support and follow-up for patients who have had a lawful procedure, treatment or form of care to which you have a conscientious objection’.
While the guide lets doctors decide for themselves how they use social media platforms, it does advise that personal and professional use of such sites should be kept separate. It also warns clinicians that following the behaviours of their patients through online activity may threaten trust between doctor and patient.
Jantze Cotter, executive director and head of regulatory policy and standards at the Medical Council said: “As doctors and as patients, we look to those we trust to lead us. This guide aims to support doctors in caring for patients.
“It is there for doctors to refer to throughout their professional career, providing principles-based guidance on possible scenarios. We hope that doctors feel supported and that the guide helps to clarify the Medical Council’s advice in areas which may have previously been unclear.”
A public survey commissioned by the Medical Council also found that doctors ranked second highest (after teachers) as the most trusted profession in Irish society, with 9 in 10 people (89 per cent) trusting their doctor to tell the truth.
While 94 per cent of adults are registered with a GP or GP practice, one-in-four individuals (25 per cent) report not having visited their GP in the past year, a notable increase compared to 15 per cent in 2020.
Almost one-in-ten people (nine per cent) has used social media to seek guidance from a doctor who uses their own online platform to provide medical advice. However, of those members of the public who have used social media in this way, just 11 per cent said that they checked if the doctor was registered.
Medical Council president Dr Suzanne Crowe said: “Our public opinion research shows that doctors continue to be among the most trusted professions in Ireland. This is a privilege, and one we do not take for granted.”
Read the November edition of Irish Medical Times for a full report on the launch of the latest edition of the Medical Council’s ethics guide.