- A responsible role advising patients and doctors on medical ethics issues
- You'll need empathy, the ability to build trust, and strong logical thinking skills
- Opportunities to go into research or lecturing in this field
As medical technology has progressed, there are increasing questions about when to use medical interventions, what is right for the patient, and what the legal position is in particular cases. This might be around issues like care when a person has a terminal illness, when babies have medical problems, or when deciding whether or not undergoing a particular treatment will be best for the patient in the long run.
This is where medical ethicists come in. You'll gain a strong knowledge of the law and regulations relating to medicine, but you'll also need to gain counselling and mediation skills. You'll need to work with people going through difficult situations and having to make really difficult choices, so you'll need to develop excellent people skills. You'll need to be tactful and sensitive and be able to grasp both technical medical and legal information and understand human needs. Empathy will be really important in this role.
This is a field that is likely to grow in importance so there are likely to be more roles available in clinical ethics in the years ahead.
- Offer guidance to patients, their families, and professional staff on ethical, legal, and policy issues
- Work as part of an ethics committee or review board
- Develop specialist skills and knowledge to help health professionals and patients discuss controversial or ethical issues and reach conclusions that are in the best interests of the patient
You might work as part of a review board or panel who will discuss individual cases, or you might work directly with doctors and their patients.
How to become a clinical ethicist:
Most specialists in this area start out by becoming a health professional like a doctor or a nurse then study for a specific qualification in this area. You'll normally need to have a degree or equivalent qualification in a medical field and then go on to do a master's degree and/or PhD in medical ethics.
Alternatively you could get involved in this area through a legal background specialising in medical ethics.
This is a growing area with a need for specialists who have both a legal understanding and the ability to help maintain good relationships between doctors and their patients.
You could also get involved in research and teaching in this field.