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Controversies
July 2002

Teaching EthicsA Structured Curriculum on Ethics for Ophthalmology Residents Is Valuable

Arch Ophthalmol. 2002;120(7):963-964. doi:10.1001/archopht.120.7.963

ETHICS, FROM the Greek word ethikos, is the branch of philosophy that deals with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions. It is a system of moral principles.1

Within philosophy departments, the discipline of ethics is further divided into metaethics, theoretical normative ethics, and applied ethics. The first 2 disciplines are, in a way, the basic science aspects of the ethics discipline; they analyze what we mean by terms such as good and bad (metaethics) and, in a general way, define what is allowable behavior (theoretical normative ethics). In applied ethics, the goal is to resolve dilemmas faced in everyday life, such as "Should I join this managed care panel? Should I comanage my cataract patients with optometrists? Should I add refractive surgery to what I offer my patients?" The ways in which each of us answer these questions in our practices are loaded with ethical implications. As such, we apply ethical principles many times each day.2 Much of the time, we do so without consciously recognizing that these principles are part of our decision-making process. In large part, teaching ethics means raising our consciousness of why we make particular choices, particularly from the standpoint of our patients' needs. To recognize ethical dilemmas for the sake of our patients is not an automatic phenomenon.

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