Ethics, Students and 21st Century Medicine

ONLINE POST, commissioned | AMP Student 2016;5

Medicine has its roots in the Hippocratic tradition of respect for the sick person and dedication to others, often with great personal sacrifice. And the values that fit the medical practice are particularly important for the professional prestige and dignity, which are responsible for the way society perspective doctors and values their activity. So, medicine is a science but also an art, with its very own identity, where the principles and values are transmitted inter-generationally, and where young doctors look to their teachers as a reference of good professional practice. These timeless ethical values are indeed responsible for the harmonization of medical practice that was seen in the last century, on a global scale.

Therefore, there is no doubt about the role of medicine in contemporary societies and the importance that medical ethics has in this context. And it is not only in extreme situations that ethics is felt as important. The ethical reflection is so important when concerning fracturing issues of our society – such as euthanasia, human embryo selection, synthetic biology, repro-genetics, or xenotransplantation – as it is in the daily practice of medicine, both in clinical and research in humans. To act according to ethical principles is essential when making the patient’s medical history, when recording the data in the process, either in paper or dematerialized form, or when obtaining informed consent for surgery or any other medical act.

But, if it is true that medical ethics is a particularly important example that teachers provide to their students – examples of dedication, professionalism, technical and scientific rigor but also of compassion, commitment and altruism – there is room for continuous learning throughout life also in the fields of ethics and bioethics.

In recent years, it has been witnessed with great satisfaction a new assumption of responsibility by the medical students who, from a merely reactive attitude in the past, today assume proactively their fate proposing and discussing the ethical rules that should guide their activity since early. And, this way contributing to a more responsible medicine, more accurate and in line with the international situation in this regard.

Still, beyond today’s existence of enormous ethical concerns within medical students, and associations representing them, it should be pointed another phenomenon of extraordinary impact: the fact that young students fit medical ethics on human rights, the dignity of the person, the rule of equality and non-discrimination, which is reflected in the proposed code of ethics by and for medical students, codes that are at the forefront of medical ethics.

To respect the dignity of the person and of all people without any discrimination on grounds of gender, age, ethnicity, place of residence, ancestry, or any other characteristic or attribute, is an essential condition for medical practice according to the will of modernity. And so, leading to a medical practice more competent and more ethical.

However, the impulse that represents the ethics of medical students, poured into ethical codes specifically designed for this purpose, is also a result of the huge investment that medical schools effected in recent years to open new horizons and appeal to the social responsibility of all physicians. Responsibility to be technically competent, diligent professionally and ethically worthy. This is the medicine of the 21st Century.

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