Docs on Ethics: Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Colleagues' lapses often go unreported, MDs acknowledge
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2007 10:26 AM CST
A doctor looks over a CT scan of a brain near the emergency room at the Childrens National Medical Center in Washington in this 20 file photo. Many doctors don't live up to their own ethical standards,...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Doctors often don't practice what they preach, reports a groundbreaking new study. Ethical standards under scrutiny in a survey of 1,600 physicians were almost universally supported but were often overlooked, researchers say. For example, 96% of respondents said doctors should report colleagues' incompetence or impairment, but 45% said they didn't always turn in offenders, the Washington Post reports.

The disconnect extended to many other areas. "We found large gaps between physicians' espoused attitudes and what they do in actual practice," said the study's lead author. The medical establishment argues that near-unanimous support for doing the right thing in most cases indicates doctors mean well, but a flawed system encourages ethically questionable behavior.