Medical ethics

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Medical ethics

Medical ethics (pronunciation: /ˈmɛdɪkəl ˈɛθɪks/) is a system of moral principles that apply values and judgments to the practice of medicine. As a scholarly discipline, medical ethics encompasses its practical application in clinical settings as well as work on its history, philosophy, theology, and sociology.


The term "ethics" derives from the Ancient Greek word "ethikos", which is derived from "ethos" meaning "character" or "nature". The term "medical" is derived from the Latin "medicus", meaning "a physician".

Related Terms

  • Bioethics: A study of the ethical issues emerging from advances in biology and medicine. It is also moral discernment as it relates to medical policy and practice.
  • Clinical ethics: A practical discipline that provides a structured approach to assist physicians in identifying, analyzing and resolving ethical issues in clinical medicine.
  • Research ethics: Specific to research, these ethical considerations protect the rights and welfare of research participants.
  • Professional ethics: Ethics that examines the moral obligations of particular professions or roles.
  • Patient autonomy: The right of patients to make decisions about their medical care without their health care provider trying to influence the decision.


Medical ethics is based on a set of values that professionals can refer to in the case of any confusion or conflict. These are the principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice.

  • Beneficence: This involves the obligation to prevent and remove harms and to promote the good of the person by minimizing the risks incurred to the patient.
  • Non-maleficence: "First, do no harm" is the bedrock of medical ethics. Every healthcare worker must strive to avoid causing harm to patients.
  • Autonomy: Health care providers must respect the decision-making capacities of autonomous persons, enabling them to make reasoned informed choices.
  • Justice: This principle relates to fairness and equality. All patients must be treated equally and fairly without any bias.

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