Why doctors should care about the professional behavior of physicians

Doctor, why did you behave the way you behaved last night?

Frankly, I don’t really care how you behaved last night as a person, although you should. I do realize that the Christian religion states that “I am my brother’s keeper.” I do care about your welfare, but I am not that strong a believer as to make your personal life my personal business.

But, if it were your professional behavior, I do care, because I, as another physician, am responsible, in the broadest sense, for your professional behavior.

You see, “the essence of professionalism is self-governance” by an individual, and by the profession as a whole.

Why do we behave the way we do? What are the controllers of human behavior?

First, it is our genes. A large part of what we do is predetermined genetically. Second, it is how our mother, or other close caregiver, treated us up to the age of 3 or 4.

Beyond that, these are the principal controllers of our human behavior:

Personal Morality, which is “a quality or fact of conforming to or deriving from right ideas of human conduct; goodness and uprightness of behavior”;

Societal Ethics, which is (are) “principles of conduct governing an individual or profession; the ideals of character manifested by a people”; and

Public Law, which is “a rule or mode of conduct or action that is formally recognized as binding by a supreme controlling authority and is made obligatory by a sanction.”

So, now you may know why you behaved the way you behaved last night. I hope you’re proud of yourself and have no need for apology or cover-up.

I intend to speak more about my responsibility for your professional behavior later.

George Lundberg is a MedPage Today Editor-at-Large and former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Originally published in MedPage Today. Visit MedPageToday.com for more practice management news.

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.