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


November 11, 2010

In This Article

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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