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August 3, 2011

Government Policies in Violation of Human Rights as a Barrier to Professionalism

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of International Health (Dr Mateen), Center for Public Health and Human Rights (Mr Rubenstein), Bloomberg School of Public Health (Dr Mateen and Mr Rubenstein) and Department of Neurology, School of Medicine (Dr Mateen), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

JAMA. 2011;306(5):541-542. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1082

In recent decades, a set of reciprocal obligations between physicians and society have been identified as central to the concept of professionalism. In return for the high degree of autonomy society grants physicians, including licensure and self-regulation, the profession is expected to serve patients' interests. At the heart of professionalism lie 3 fundamental principles: primacy of patient welfare, founded on altruism, trust, competence, and patient interest; patient autonomy, including educating and empowering patients to make appropriate medical decisions; and social justice, which considers available resources and the needs of all patients while taking care of an individual patient.1 However, deeply embedded institutional and organizational impediments often beyond the control of the physician (eg, inequitable access to care and reimbursement systems that create disincentives to proper care) can undermine physicians' ability to adhere to these professional obligations in clinical practice.2