Medical ethics is the discipline of evaluating the merits, risks, and social concerns of activities in the field of medicine.

Many methods have been suggested to help evaluate the ethics of a situation. These methods tend to introduce principles that should be thought about in the process of making a decision.

Six of the principles commonly included are:

  • Beneficence - means that a practitioner should act in the best interest of the patient. (Salus aegroti suprema lex.)
  • Non-maleficence - from the Hippocratic Oath, "never do harm".
  • Autonomy - means that the patient should have the right to decide on their treatment. (Voluntas aegroti suprema lex.)
  • Justice - concerns the distribution of scarce health resources, and the decision of who gets what treatment.
  • Dignity - the patient (and the person treating the patient) should be given the right to dignity.
  • Truthfulness - the patient should not be lied to, and deserves to know the whole truth about their illness.

Principles like these are not designed to give answers as to how to handle a particular situation, and they will often overlap or contradict each other. (For instance, autonomy and beneficence clash if a patient refuses a life-saving blood transfusion.) These principles are intended as guidelines as to what needs to be considered for a particular issue or situation.

Table of contents
1 List of topics in medical ethics

List of topics in medical ethics

Issues around death and dying

Issues regarding reproductive medicine

Issues regarding medical research

Issues regarding distribution and utilization of research