The junior doctor as ethically unique

Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (4):268-270 (2008)
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This paper argues that the professional situation of junior doctors is unique in ethically important ways and thus that ethics work focusing on junior doctors specifically is necessary. Unlike the medical student or the more senior doctor, the doctor in his or her early postgraduate years is simultaneously a responsible health professional, a subjugate learner and a human resource. These multiple roles generate the set of ethical issues faced by junior doctors, a set that has some overlaps with that faced by medical students and with that faced by more experienced doctors but is far from completely continuous with either. Further, the multiple roles that junior doctors play affect their options for negotiating the ethical challenges that they face. Their position determines not only the content of the set of ethical issues that they encounter, but also the kinds of actions they can take in the face of these challenges. Thus considering junior doctors only in combination with medical students or more senior doctors fails on two fronts. Firstly, only a very incomplete set of the ethical issues faced by junior doctors will be addressed, and, secondly, the constraints associated with the specific professional situation of junior doctors will not be adequately considered, limiting the practical applicability for these agents of any such analyses



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