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Throughout the centuries, societies have looked to the caring professions in times of health crisis, and in response, healthcare workers can boast a long history of serving their patients regardless of the hazards. In recent times, the culture of duty to serve has become eroded by an increasing emphasis on self-determination and a transactional approach within the healthcare worker (HCW)/patient relationship. We examine the tension between duty to serve and personal autonomy, and place the four traditional medical ethical principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, justice and autonomy within a layered framework that takes account of societal context and values. These issues are teased out in a hypothetical discourse between two moral philosophers Socrates and Plato, who use a process of reflective equilibrium to resolve the following question: Should healthcare organisations ethically be able to compel healthcare workers to serve during a pandemic, regardless of unavoidable personal risk?



Book title

Australasian Anaesthesia 2021



Publication Date



337 - 348