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Navigating climate responsibility: a critical examination of healthcare professionals’ moral duties
  1. Sapfo Lignou,
  2. James Hart
  1. Ethox Centre, Nuffield Department for Population Health, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sapfo Lignou, Oxford University, Oxford, UK; sapfo.lignou{at}

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In their upcoming article, Henk Jasper van Gils-Schmidt and Sabine Salloch highlight the supposed responsibilities of healthcare professionals in addressing the global health challenges posed by climate change. They argue that healthcare professionals’ duties to future generations and their ‘climate-related obligations’ have been neglected, primarily due to potential conflicts with other responsibilities, such as providing optimal care to current patients and maintaining patient trust. The authors suggest that these competing obligations should be viewed as part of the multifaceted identities individuals hold, encompassing roles as both physicians and environmentalists, each with normative and competing commitments. They propose that a transformative shift in physicians’ professional ethos, expanding from the predominant focus on individual patients to include obligations towards climate protection, could pave the way for identifying effective mechanisms to address these challenges.

While acknowledging the authors’ emphasis on sustainable healthcare practices, we argue that a duty to climate protection as part of healthcare professionals’ identity lacks ethical support. We identify serious concerns that stem from the transformative shift in physicians’ professional ethos, particularly in the authors’ presentation of reasons for action.

First, envisaging a stable disposition that compels healthcare professionals to ensure optimal care conditions for both immediate and potential future encounters is unrealistic. Such a scenario would necessitate a nuanced and multifaceted evaluation, weighing …

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  • X @SapfoLignou

  • Contributors SL and JH contributed equally to the initial conception of the manuscript. SL wrote the first draft and the subsequent drafts. JH provided substantive comments on the subsequent drafts. SL is the guarantor for this paper.

  • Funding This study was funded by NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (no award/grant number) and Wellcome Trust (203132/Z/16/Z).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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