General Practice and Ethics: Uncertainty and Responsibility

General Practice and Ethics: Uncertainty and Responsibility

General Practice and Ethics: Uncertainty and Responsibility

General Practice and Ethics: Uncertainty and Responsibility


Explores the ethical issues faced by GPs in their everyday practice, addressing two central themes; the uncertainty of outcomes and effectiveness in general practice and the changing pattern of general practitioners' responsibilities.


Professional ethics is now acknowledged as a field of study in its own right. Much of its recent development has resulted from rethinking traditional medical ethics in the light of new moral problems arising out of advances in medical science and technology. Applied philosophers, ethicists and lawyers have devoted considerable energy to exploring the dilemmas emerging from modern health care practices and their effects on the practitioner—patient relationship.

It is fair to say, however, that the ethical issues that arise in general practice have received less attention than, for example, those in hospital-based medicine. As the editors of this volume show, however, it is in general practice that some of the most complex issues arise, for example management of chronic illness and the establishment of relationships with whole families over time, with the possibility of conflicting obligations.

Christopher Dowrick and Lucy Frith point out that government policies regarding the emphasis on primary care, on the one hand, and the increasing focus on resource shortages, on the other, have only served to highlight the fact that general practitioners often face difficult ethical choices, arising in part out of their changing responsibilities. Responsibility forms one of the main themes of the volume. The other is uncertainty, for example in relation to outcomes and effectiveness in general practice, and how that impacts on ethical decision-making.

In so far as the volume deals with changing patterns of health care it should be of interest to all those with an interest in health care ethics, and not only to those concerned with the particular field of general practice.

The Professional Ethics series seeks to examine ethical issues in the professions and related areas both critically and constructively. Individual volumes address issues relevant to all professional groups, such as the nature of a profession. Other volumes examine issues relevant to

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