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Ethical guide ‘should be strengthened’ on cultural respect

Some members of the Medical Council’s ethics committee considered that doctors’ ethical guidance should be strengthened in relation to “cultural competency and respect for the backgrounds of patients and doctors”. The ethics committee is reviewing the Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners, a process due to be finalised in 2023.

According to minutes of an ethics committee meeting last December, Ms Fiona Healy, the Council’s Head of Performance, Professional Conduct and Ethics, presented on ethical guides in other jurisdictions.

“The committee systems employed in Canada and New Zealand were outlined briefly,” according to the minutes. “In the discussion that followed, it was detailed that the approach, tone, and language employed, particularly in New Zealand, was ‘lighter’ than the Medical Council’s guide while still fulfilling their function as a guide.

“Some members observed the explicit reference to cultural competency and respect for the backgrounds of patients and doctors, expressing a desire to strengthen that position here.”

The Medical Council’s ethical guide states that “patients’ cultural backgrounds and ethnicity have an important effect on their health outcomes. You should try to understand patients’ cultures and respond to their individual needs. You should not discriminate against patients or colleagues on any grounds.”

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