Should doctors strike?
Is it ethical for doctors to go on strike, potentially putting their patients at risk of getting inadequate treatment?
As the BBC reports, ministers and junior doctors are currently “locked in a dispute.” One possible outcome of this disagreement is a physicians’ strike, which raises a number of tricky ethical questions. But before we get into those questions, it might be helpful to take a look at a quick sketch of what the problem is all about (from the BBC article):
Junior doctors’ leaders are objecting to the prospect of a new contract. The government has described the current arrangements as ‘outdated’ and ‘unfair,’ pointing out they were introduced in the 1990s. Ministers drew up plans to change the contract in 2012, but talks broke down last year. The government has indicated it will impose the new contract next year in England. The BMA has responded by initiating the industrial action process. …
The latest information provided by the government, which is the most detailed so far, includes an 11% rise in basic pay for doctors. But that comes at a price. Other elements of the pay package are being curbed.
The prospect of a strike appears to be firmly on the table: “Doctors can take strike action but only if it affects non-emergency care. The last time this happened was during [a] pensions dispute in 2012, but that was the first time such action had been taken for almost 40 years. Doctors still attend work – so they are ready for urgent and emergency cases.”
The Journal of Medical Ethics has tackled this issue before.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.