The Anesthesiology Code of Ethics

By April 27, 2018Uncategorized

In a previous post, we wrote about how the field of anesthesiology has a rich history of engaging with ethical issues that arise in medical practice. But what are the ethics of anesthesiology practice? What defines an ethical anesthesiologist?

There are two major dimensions to consider when discussing ethics. First and foremost are the ideals that inform our definitions and understandings of ethical issues. These are concepts and principles that animate the discussions around professional ethics, and are fundamental to whatever case we may be focused on. Then, there is also the pragmatic dimension of ethics: what ought to be done in complicated situations? What are the on-the-ground questions and problems faced by anesthesiologists, and what do our ideals prompt us to answer? Universal ethical principles help to shape an approach that we can then apply to the day-to-day ambiguities that arise.

Like most medical specialties, anesthesiology has a code of ethics defined through rigorous discussion and consensus among leaders in the field. They fall under the broader Principles of Medical Ethics as defined by the American Medical Association. Those principles include the familiar “do no harm,” as well as other general values that most physicians share. Particular to anesthesia are a set of compelling guidelines that all patients may expect when under the care of an anesthesiologist.

Anesthesiologists have an ethical responsibility towards not only their patients, but also the facilities where they practice, their clinical colle