Exclusive Ethics Survey Results: Doctors Struggle With Tougher-Than-Ever Dilemmas

|Disclosures|November 11, 2010

Other Ethical Issues

17. Would you agree that you should refuse gifts or perks from pharmaceutical companies because they may influence your medical judgment?

  • Yes, 46.8%

  • No, 36.8%

  • It depends, 16.4%

18. Could you become involved in a romantic/sexual relationship with a patient?

  • Yes, while that patient is still a patient, 0.8%

  • Yes, but not until at least 6 months after they stopped being a patient, 11.7%

  • No, 83.1%

  • It depends, 4.5%

19. Should it be legal for people to buy organs for transplant, if they would not be able to receive an organ by waiting their turn through the national database?

  • Yes, 19.9%

  • No, 66.5%

  • It depends, 13.6%

20. Would you perform an abortion in certain situations, even if it were against your own beliefs?

  • Yes, 34.1%

  • No, 53.5%

  • It depends, 12.4%

21. What was your biggest ethical dilemma?

The array of answers was mind-boggling, attesting to the complexity of medicine and morality today. Some of the main categories noted include:
  • Reporting an incompetent or impaired colleague

  • Owning up after making a medical error

  • Physician/patient confidentiality when one half of a couple is HIV positive and the other half doesn't know

  • Prolonging futile care for a dying patient

  • Denying care to a nonpaying patient

  • Whether to honor a family's request not to tell a relative that he/she has a terminal illness

  • Exaggerating a patient's condition to get insurance coverage

  • Writing a prescription for a family member or friend

For physician-respondent comments, see Physicians' Top 20 Ethical Dilemmas


  • Medscape's Ethics Survey email was sent on 8/18/10 to 151,000 US-based Medscape physicians spanning more than 25 specialties.

  • The invitation to participate included a sweepstakes to win an iPad.

  • The promotion period ran from August 18 to September 15, 2010.

  • The number of respondents was 10,078.

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Authors and Disclosures


Leslie Kane, MA

Leslie Kane, MA, is Editorial Director of Medscape Business of Medicine.

Disclosure: Leslie Kane, MA, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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