Ethical Duties ID'd for Short-Term Global Health Experiences

Physician's primary ethical obligation is to improve the health, well-being of individuals, communities
Physician's primary ethical obligation is to improve the health, well-being of individuals, communities

HealthDay News — In a position paper published online March 27 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ethical obligations have been detailed for physicians participating in short-term global health experiences (STEGHs).

Matthew DeCamp, MD, PhD, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues discussed and developed positions relating to ethical obligations regarding short-term global health clinical experiences. 

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The authors note that in short-term global health experiences, a physician's primary ethical obligation is to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities; the physician's primary ethical obligation is to the welfare of individual patients, not their own interests. To ensure that the potential burdens participants can place on local communities abroad are minimized, the ethical principle of justice requires partnering with local leaders. The ethical principle of respect for persons is essential to short-term global medical experiences, including being sensitive to and respectful of cultural differences. There is an ethical obligation for predeparture preparation, which should incorporate preparation for logistical and ethical aspects of STEGHs, such as the potential for ethical challenges and moral distress. Finally, physicians should participate with organizations whose STEGHs are consistent with these ethical principles.

"By adhering to these principles, physicians can help maintain trust in a profession committed to protecting patient well-being and improving health equity at home and abroad," the authors write.

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