Normative Lessons: Codes of Conduct, Self-Regulation and the Law
Parker, Malcolm H
The Medical journal of Australia 2010 Jun 7; 192(11): 658-60
Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia provides uniform standards to be applied in relation to complaints about doctors to the new Medical Board of Australia. The draft Code was criticised for being prescriptive. The final Code employs apparently less authoritative wording than the draft Code, but the implicit obligations it contains are no less prescriptive. Although the draft Code was thought to potentially undermine trust in doctors, and stifle professional judgement in relation to individual patients, its general obligations always allowed for flexibility of application, depending on the circumstances of individual patients. Professional codes may contain some aspirational statements, but they always contain authoritative ones, and they share this feature with legal codes. In successfully diluting the apparent prescriptivity of the draft Code, the profession has lost an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the raison d'etre of self-regulation - the protection of patients. Professional codes are not opportunities for reflection, consideration and debate, but are outcomes of these activities.
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