Socrates, Plato and the healthcare worker's duty to serve
Hessian E., SAVULESCU J.
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?