BMC Medical Ethics 14 (S1):S1 (2013)

BackgroundDoctor and healthcare worker strikes are a global phenomenon with the potential to negatively impact on the quality of healthcare services and the doctor-patient relationship. Strikes are a legitimate deadlock breaking mechanism employed when labour negotiations have reached an impasse during collective bargaining. Striking doctors usually have a moral dilemma between adherence to the Hippocratic tenets of the medical profession and fiduciary obligation to patients. In such circumstances the ethical principles of respect for autonomy, justice and beneficence all come into conflict, whereby doctors struggle with their role as ordinary employees who are rightfully entitled to a just wage for just work versus their moral obligations to patients and society.DiscussionIt has been argued that to deny any group of workers, including "essential workers" the right to strike is akin to enslavement which is ethically and morally indefensible. While HCW strikes occur globally, the impact appears more severe in developing countries challenged by poorer socio-economic circumstances, embedded infrastructural deficiencies, and lack of viable alternative means of obtaining healthcare. These communities appear to satisfy the criteria for vulnerability and may be deserving of special ethical consideration when doctor and HCW strikes are contemplated.SummaryThe right to strike is considered a fundamental right whose derogation would be inimical to the proper functioning of employer/employee collective bargaining in democratic societies. Motivations for HCW strikes include the natural pressure to fulfil human needs and the paradigm shift in modern medical practice, from self-employment and benevolent paternalism, to managed healthcare and consumer rights. Minimizing the incidence and impact of HCW strikes will require an ethical approach from all stakeholders, and recognition that all parties have an equal moral obligation to serve the best interests of society. Employers should implement legitimate collective bargaining agreements in a timely manner and high-handed actions such as mass-firing of striking HCWs, or unjustifiable disciplinary action by regulators should be avoided. Minimum service level agreements should be implemented to mitigate the impact of HCW strikes on indigent populations. Striking employees including HCWs should also desist from making unrealistic wage demands which could bankrupt governments/employers or hamper provision of other equally important social services to the general population.
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DOI 10.1186/1472-6939-14-S1-S1
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Business & Society: Ethics and Stakeholder Management.Archie B. Carroll - 2002 - South-Western College Pub./Thomson Learning.

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