Press Release

Minister for Health Simon Harris welcomes the publication of the Medical Council’s 8th Edition of the ‘Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners’

The Minister for Health Simon Harris T.D., today welcomed the publication of the Medical Council’s 8th edition of its Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners.

While the Guide is not a legal code, it sets out the principles of professional practice and conduct that all doctors registered with the Medical Council are expected to follow. The Minister understands that there are approximately 20,000 doctors on the Medical Council’s register and the Code will be of immense value in updating these doctors and their patients on significant aspects of modern medical practice. It will also be a valuable tool for those educating the doctors of the future.

Minister Harris stated “The key objective of the Medical Council as regulator of the medical profession is to ensure patient safety. Doctors work in a challenging environment in which many decisions they make during their medical career relate to the health and wellbeing of others – some decisions are indeed a matter of life or death. I wish to thank the Council for this excellent resource for doctors. In its role as regulator it is helping to better inform doctors on the values, principles and behaviours which underpin their work – on the pillars of their professionalism. It is clear from the Guide that a doctor’s key professional responsibility is to act in the best interests of patients, without being influenced by any personal consideration. Clinical judgement cannot be clouded by allowing issues such as religion, nationality, gender, race, ethnicity, age, politics, socio-economic grouping or disability influence the care or treatment given by a doctor. In this regard, professionalism is at the core of the patient-doctor relationship and is fundamental for patient safety and the delivery of high-quality healthcare. The Guide gives clear and concise advice on a wide range of situations, which may arise over the course of a doctor’s professional career. Equally importantly, however, it also clarifies for patients the standards of care which they should expect from their doctors. This is a welcome development and puts the patient as a full participant in their care, moving from a situation of patient obligations to patient empowerment”.

The Minister has been informed by the Council that the Guide has been updated following a comprehensive consultation process with members of the public, doctors and range of partner organisations within the health sector. It aims to serve the needs of doctors and their patients and it reflects the evolving nature of medical practice. It has been updated to include issues of equal concern to patients and members of the profession, including the influence of social media, equality and diversity, doctors in management roles and training and trainees.

Three “pillars of professionalism” have been identified and the Guide explains how these pillars – Partnership, Practice and Performance – provide the framework for a shared understanding of the principles and values that underpin good medical care. They should be at the core from the moment individuals enter medical school right through to retirement, so that the highest possible standards of care are provided to patients.

The Guide will be used by doctors and representative bodies, patients and patient advocates, medical educators and trainers, professional indemnifiers, employers and Government departments.


Note for Editors:

The Medical Council’s Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners

The Medical Council was established by the Medical Practitioners Act 1978 (as amended in 2007). The Council is the statutory body for the registration and regulation of doctors engaged in medical practice. The primary objective of Council is to protect the public by promoting and better ensuring high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among registered medical practitioners. The principal functions of the Council are to:

  • Establish and maintain the register of medical practitioners
  • Set and monitor standards for undergraduate, intern and postgraduate education and training
  • Specify and review the standards required for the maintenance of the professional competence of registered medical practitioners
  • Specify standards of practice for registered medical practitioners including providing guidance on all matters related to professional conduct and ethics
  • Conduct disciplinary procedures

The responsibilities of the Council were strengthened by the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, particularly in the areas of registration, complaints referred to Preliminary Proceedings Committee (PPC) and to Fitness to Practise Committee, education and training and the maintenance of professional competence.