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Reassessing ‘good’ medical practice and the climate crisis
  1. Rammina Yassaie1,
  2. Lucy Brooks2
  1. 1Sheffield Hallam University College of Health Wellbeing and Life Sciences, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Bradford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rammina Yassaie, Sheffield Hallam University College of Health Wellbeing and Life Sciences, Sheffield, UK; R.Yassaie{at}shu.ac.uk

Abstract

In August 2023, the General Medical Council released the latest update of Good Medical Practice, which sets out the standards of patient care and professional behaviour to be expected of UK doctors. These updated guidelines offer some environmental considerations that previous standards did not include. This paper explores these latest additions to Good Medical Practice through the healthcare ethics lens of non-maleficence, beneficence, justice and autonomy, alongside trust and physician well-being, to make the case that the latest updates to Good Medical Practice do not go far enough in specifying the duties for doctors in responding to climate and ecological emergencies to be seen as ethically justifiable.

The paper argues that given the health implications of the climate crisis and the harms associated with high-emission healthcare, as well as the co-benefits of climate action on health, there must be a stronger commitment from the medical regulator to ensure the groundwork is set for doctors to learn, understand and advocate for the importance and urgency of practicing sustainable healthcare. The case for this is strengthened by also examining the importance of maintaining public trust in the medical profession as advocates for public health, along with the notable societal and generational injustices that continue to deepen as the climate emergency escalates.

The paper concludes by arguing that doctors can and should be a part of writing a new chapter for health in the climate era, but our standards for practice need to offer a strengthened starting point of consensus for what is expected of the medical profession for that to come to fruition and raise questions as to what doctors can and should do when they have questions over their own regulators’ commitment to maintaining public health in relation to the climate and ecological crisis.

  • Environment
  • Ethics- Medical
  • Decision Making

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Footnotes

  • X @ramminay

  • Contributors RY conceived of the paper and authored the initial published blog post on this topic. RY and LB contributed to manuscript writing, editing and approved the final version. RY is the guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests LB is an Environmental Advisor to the Royal College of Anaesthetists (unpaid).

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