Posted by William Nunnelley on 2010-04-09

Are codes of ethics enough?

The committee chairman of the latest revision of the American Pharmacists Association Code of Ethics thinks not.  Joseph Fink III, a pharmacist and lawyer who teaches at the University of Kentucky, said there’s no way codes can address every situation.

He spoke at the annual Samford University Healthcare Ethics and Law Institute (HEAL) conference Friday, April 9, at Samford.  The conference—sponsored by Samford’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy—dealt with the issue of healthcare ethics codes.

“Codes alone are not enough,” said Professor Fink.  Individuals play an important role in enforcing ethical standards through one-on-one counseling, he added.  “The interactions, professional-to-professional and mentor-to-student, have withstood the test of time and will continue to be valuable far into the future.”

He noted that for years, “under the preceptor/apprentice approach to educating and training aspiring professionals, one learned ethical standards and appropriate professional behavior at the elbow of a seasoned professional.”  The system had such clear value, he added, that it now flourishes as “experiential education” in pharmacy schools.

He added that another approach to enforcing and implementing ethical standards is “the very effective peer-to-peer method” of counseling.

Fink, who teaches in the colleges of pharmacy and public health at Kentucky, chaired the committee that produced the current pharmacist code of ethics in 1994.  He said the principle motivation for the revision—the sixth since the code was adopted in 1852—was the continuing expansion of the pharmacist’s role.  In response to a question, he said he knows of no plans to revise the current code.

Fink received one of three Pellegrino Medals presented for contributions to healthcare ethics during the conference.  The others went to Dr. DeWitt C. Baldwin, a physician and scholar-in-residence at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in Chicago., Ill., and Dr. Joy Penticuff, director of nursing program development at Concordia University of Texas and nursing professor emerita at the University of Texas at Austin.

Pellegrino Medals are presented annually at Samford’s HEAL conference.  The medal is named for Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, the first recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities.

Dr. Baldwin spoke later in the conference on the topic “Codes of Ethics: Setting the Goal Posts for Professionalism?”

Dr. Bruce D. White of McWhorter School of Pharmacy is HEAL director and Lori Bateman is HEAL program director. #

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.