Ethical Orthopaedics

Ethical Orthopeadics for EFORT 2014

In its simplest terms Ethics is the science of human duty. There is clearly a link between the law and ethics but the former tends to concentrate on rights and the latter on values. Concerns for our patients’ welfare and the proper behavior of those who treat them date back 4,000 years to the Code of Hammurabi. It is 25 centuries since Hippocrates exhorted us “to abstain from doing harm”.

In 2005 a JBJS editorial noted that our patients and our Governments grant us certain privileges but expect us to be guided by ethical principles. We set the standards for entry, assessment, training and certification and seek to ensure these standards are maintained throughout a professional lifetime. We are expected in return to treat our patients with skill, care and consideration.

All practising orthopaedic surgeons should combine honesty and integrity with altruism. We need to maintain physical and mental health to practise efficiently and should strive to balance work, family and recreational pursuits appropriately. Professionally  we must work within the limits of our competence. Our patients deserve our compassion and understanding. They and their relatives should understand our commitment to maintaining confidentiality.   They need to choose between treatments we offer and we are responsible for explaining options honestly, simply and clearly. The advice should be based both on the best-available evidence and our own experience.  The options offered should consider any limitations imposed by the resources available to us. Whenever possible a simple procedure should be preferred to a complex one.

Research is essential for  progress. It should increase the understanding and management of disease and improve patient outcomes. Where   possible, laboratory experiments are preferred to animal or human ones. Anyone who conducts patient-related research should understand the ethical, institutional and government guidelines which guide behaviour. Patients must be fully informed about the objectives, risks and potential benefits of the study. If the investigator and his team stand to benefit individually or institutionally the patient should know. Poor results should not be excluded on any pretence.  We all have responsibility to report ethical misconduct in scientific research such lapses whether they be of  plagiarism, deception, falsification and/or fabrication of data.

Michael KD Benson (Chair of EFORT Ethics Committee)
Niki Boehler, Miklos Szendroi, Luigi Zagra, Jean Puget

┼   It is with the greatest sadness that the authors recall that the contributions made to this ethical study by our first chairman, Prof. Jean Puget, were abruptly halted by his untimely death. We honour his enthusiasm, good humour and deeply held ethical beliefs. The world of orthopaedics is made poorer by his departure. 

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