GPs and GPs in training are required to conduct themselves ethically, professionally and in a way that is consistent with the expectations of Australian society and the profession of general practice.10 Ethical medical practice is based on four principles:11
- respect for autonomy – the right of individuals to make their own decisions
- beneficence – the duty to act in the best interests of the patient
- non-maleficence – the duty to do no harm
- justice – equity and fair distribution.
Society expects particular professional characteristics and behaviours from GPs. These include trustworthiness, truthfulness, integrity, commitment to competency, commitment to patient safety, appropriate doctor–patient boundaries, confidentiality, compassion, respect for cultural differences, self-awareness and reflective practice.10,11 When healthcare does not go to plan, GPs are expected to acknowledge and learn from errors, create safe spaces for open dialogue about adverse events, and engage in honest, open disclosure.12 Learning how to respond to and learn from errors is an educational priority.13
GPs have a social responsibility to provide the best possible care for patients and the community while considering cost-effective and equitable use of limited public resources. It is paramount that healthcare for those most disadvantaged is resourced.6 Local, state and federal government health priorities inform this imperative.5