Witnessing Incompetent or Inappropriate Behavior

Case-Based Teaching Guide: Witnessing Incompetent or Inappropriate Behavior

Responding to other physicians whose behavior or clinical practice appears to be incompetent or unethical presents a difficult challenge.

Many physicians feel some duty of loyalty to their peers. Minimally, this duty requires that they not take action that may harm a colleague's career unless there is sufficient evidence to justify that action. Yet physicians also have independent obligations to protect patients who may be receiving substandard care.

What level of evidence is required before a physician should intervene? How do you respond when a colleague denies needing help? What obligation do you have to inform that physician's patients of your concerns?

These materials explore the ethical issues that arise when a physician becomes aware of a colleague who has delivered substandard care or behaved in a way that appears to be unethical.

Participants will discuss their obligations to colleagues and how that must be balanced against their duty to patients.

Participants will explore two primary issues: how to decide when intervention is necessary and what strategies are available for dealing with colleagues who deliver substandard care or practice unethically.

Read the Instructor's Guide or Student's Guide.

This instructor's guide was developed by Douglas S. Diekema, MD, MPH, director of education, Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics and Palliative Care, Seattle Children's Hospital.

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1. Instructor's Guide 2. Student's Guide 3. Case Discussion