In medicine, we are often faced with value-laden situations for which the “right” answer is not always obvious. An example of this may be having concern that a patient is being abused by her partner, and not having legal protection to report this abuse to the authorities.
Professionalism is a hard-to-define construct. Fundamentally, a professional must be willing to put the obligations of his or her profession and the needs of the public (or, in the case of physicians, the patient) above his or her personal interests. Lawmakers, medical organizations and regulatory bodies further define professional practices through laws, regulations, and policies. Failure to abide by one or all of these places you, the physician, in a position of significant liability. More importantly, it may cause harm to your patients, and reduce the public’s trust in the medical profession.