CanMEDS Professional
Physicians and Society

Physicians and Society


The idea, expressed by Drs. Cruess, Johnston and Cruess on the previous page, that there is a social contract between physicians and society and that this contract is the source of our position and privileges is central to understanding what is expected of us as individuals and a profession.



"...the Professional role is guided by codes of ethics, a commitment to clinical competence, the embracing of appropriate attitudes and behaviours, integrity, altruism, personal well-being and the promotion of the public good within their domain. These commitments form the basis of a social contract between the physician and society. Society in return, grants physicians the privilege of profession-led regulation with the understanding that they are accountable to those served." We "are committed to the health and well-being of individuals and society through ethical practice, profession-led regulation and high personal standards of behaviour.[2]



Professional status is granted in return for the ongoing fulfillment of obligations. Medicine’s obligations reflect society’s expectations. As societal needs change, so too will medicine’s obligations.  Our status as a profession is granted  by society and to society we are obliged.

A full exploration of what is implied by ’social contract’ is far beyond the scope of the module but for those who are interested it represents a long discussion of the connections between individuals and societies;  "is the view that persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live."[4]




2. Faarvang KL, da Silva JA. Competencies in rheumatology: a European framework. Best Practice and Research Clinical Rheumatology 2009;23:145-160. accessed April 12, 2011

4. from: Friend C. Social Contract Theory. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - a Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource. October 15, 2004. accessed June 24, 2011

All references for this section