Professional Ethics and Labor Disputes: Medicine and Nursing in the United Kingdom

Abstract
The term “industrial action” includes any noncooperation with management, such as strict “working to rule,” refusal of certain duties, going slow, and ultimately withdrawal of labor. The latter form of action, striking, has posed particular problems for professional ethics, especially in those professions that provide healthcare, because of the potential impact on patients' well-being. Examination of the issues, however, displays a difference in response between the healthcare professions, in particular between doctors and nurses. In considering the ethics of industrial (especially strike) action there are various aspects of professional ethics to consider: (1) whether there is a tension between industrial action and the very notion of professional ethics; (2) what specific issues arise in the case of healthcare professions; (3) what, if anything, can explain and/or justify different responses from the medical and nursing professions?
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