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How far does a doctor's ‘duty of care’ go?

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It is a long-standing tradition in medicine that doctors have an ethical duty to care for all patients who fall within the scope of their skill base. This duty reflects the value system of many doctors and the type of typical dedication to their craft that has long been expected and given. The modern doctor, however, may have other additional roles – such as those of parent, researcher, businessperson and many others. What about the duties that accompany these other activities and what if these duties come into conflict with the duty to care for patients? How does a doctor decide how far the duty to care for patients extends? This article explores this question of duty and discusses how the notion of the traditional doctor's duty to care may need to be amended in light of the kinds of lives that doctors now lead. (Intern Med J 2005; 35: 295–296)
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Keywords: conflict; duty to care; professional freedom; tradition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Infectious Diseases, Prince of Wales Hospital and Prince of Wales Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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