Ethics in health care: “Physician, heal thyself”
Doctors have an obligation, derived from duty to protect patients from harm, to take positive action if a colleague is impaired. In this article, the Health Professions Council of South Africa ethical guidelines concerning the duty of a doctor to report impaired practitioners is reviewed, followed by an overview of the regulations relating to the impairment of students and practitioners. Problems that doctors face, which may contribute to their impairment, will be discussed. Finally, while supporting the ethical duty to report impairment, a suggestion is made that during medication education, more emphasis should be placed on doctors recognising that they are human and fallible.