Lessons from a draft medical code of conduct

The safety industry in Australia may be seeking to become a recognised profession but, as with most business processes, continuous improvement is an important element of remaining current.

The Australian Medical Council has released a revised draft code of conduct with which several members of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) disagree.

According to an AMA media release,  Professor Paul Komesaroff, Director of Monash University’s Centre for Ethics in Medicine and Society, and Associate Professor Ian Kerridge, Director of Sydney University’s Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in medicine, believe the draft Code

“was likely to be counterproductive for four main reasons:

  • it was very unclear how standards could be enforced; 
  • the Code was based on a single concept of ethics, lacking a sufficient appreciation of our multicultural diversity; 
  • it contributed to an insidious, creeping authoritarianism; and, lastly, 
  • the code would suggest that good practice involved following the same rules in all circumstances rather than responding to individual circumstances and needs.”

The professors said

“Codes of conduct can either expand the ability of individuals to make their own decisions and maximise their opportunities for ethical action, or they can claim authority beyond their capacity and encourage the belief that good practice simply involves following a formula and applying the rules.”

The medical code of conduct is only a draft so there should be robust debate.To do so publicly may appear unseemly to some but ultimately, when issues are resolved, the public (the clients) can bear witness to the exhaustive and open process organisations have used to establish professional standards.  

The lesson for embryonic professions like safety is to follow the advice I provdie consultants of any profession – look outside your comfort zone to better understand what you do.

The quote above suggests that a registered profession does not need to be regimented and controlling.  To be described as professional is a compliment, but the risk is that “professional” can come to mean blinkered and, ultimately, fearful.  A profession risks becoming infected by “an insidious, creeping authoritarianism”.

Many in the safety profession are promoting “leadership”, “innovation”, “resilience”.  Perhaps we should be promoting an inclusive terminology that has an established and, usually, reputable history, like medicine.  Safety “profession” can include all of the modern business jingo in a proven framework rather than confusing ourselves, our clients and our regulators, with “Newspeak“.

Now that would be doubleplusgood.

Kevin Jones

Categories business, law, OHS, Professional standards, UncategorizedTags

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