Physicians in the double role of treatment provider and expert in light of principle-based social insurance medical ethics
GPs serve in a double role of treatment provider and expert in certain social insurance systems, such as the Norwegian one. Some physicians assert that the ethical obligations of the two roles conflict with each other. The objective of this article is to show that social insurance medical ethics (SIME), which are based on recognised principles of medical ethics, unite the physicians’ obligations associated with these roles. The method applied is a medical ethics conceptual analysis. The material consists of literature on normative SIME. The study shows that SIME expands the role of the treatment provider to a wider societal context. Here, physicians should attempt to balance the perspectives of sympathy with empathy, as treatment providers, with the impartiality in their role as experts. Five principles of medical ethics are fundamental. Respect for human dignity is the overarching principle of medical ethics. The four others are nonmaleficence, beneficence (including soft paternalism), autonomy, and social justice. The article discusses two areas where it is asserted that the roles of treatment provider and expert conflict with each other: the application of beneficence and justice, and the duty of confidentiality versus the duty to provide information to the National Insurance service. The study concludes that there are no basic ethical conflicts between the two roles. The ethical problems that may arise when exercising this duality should be viewed in the same way as other ethical problems in medicine. Actual application and balancing of the principles may necessitate negotiations between patients and physicians.
Keywords: dual roles, professionalism, deliberation, impartiality, medical principle ethics, values of welfare state