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Commentary |

How Medical School Oaths and Professional Codes of Ethics Affect Physicians' PracticeHow Oaths and Codes of Ethics Affect Physician Practice

George B. Bartley, MD
Arch Ophthalmol. 2011;129(9):1221-1222. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2011.258.
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This article raises important questions about professionalism—specifically, the moral foundation on which physicians base their attitudes and actions. Oaths and codes of conduct were intended to articulate a common framework for practitioners who pledged fealty to them. The results of this survey confirm what many people suspect, that the ceremonial recitation of such oaths is a largely irrelevant exercise.

The authors kindly shared with me a longer, unpublished version of their study, in which they opined that the survey results may reflect a greater problem of a loss of professional moral identity among physicians. They cite Stern and Papadikis,1 who posited that professions must articulate a clear identity, clear expectations, and clear consequences when members of the profession transgress putative standards. Unfortunately, medical educators often presume a commitment to professionalism without the prerequisite clarification of identity and accountability.2,3

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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