Asclepius' Ampoule - Being aware of our role
by Andrea Pascale, psychologist and psychotherapist
"… The hearth of help-related profession is ethic: it aims to fight the lie, especially the one we tell to ourselves…" (Luigi Zoja, "Across intentions. Ethic and Analysis")
We can deal with the tricky field of deontology starting from a specific paradigm, which is ethics.
I'm talking about "paradigm" because ethics is something the human being can use to give significance to his personal experience, to what his body feel but most of all to all the actions that he performs. Starting from here, we can enlarge our vision exploring the aspect of professional ethics, which confronts with our work and the role that we play.
Therefore we can notice the strong bond between ethics and professional role, the difference between understanding what's wrong and what's right and exercising a professional task within the consented rights.
Besides, it's even more important to focus on these topics when the profession involves taking care of somebody. People who work with patients who need medical assistance, whatever is their level of pain, has the duty to follow a precise code of ethics, not because it's a juridical law, but essentially, in my opinion, to put themselves to the test in an honest and authentic way.
The professional code of ethics it's not just a contrivance to give a reputation to the profession, but it must be an innate characteristic for who's responsible of the health conditions od other people.
I don't believe, or maybe I don't wan't, to bad intentions, to the professional act made to injure somebody else: I just want to highlight the risk of the absence of awareness.
Any patient who's suffering from illness, physic or psychic, big or small, pathologic or existential, find himself in the "grey zone" between good and bad: making him turns towards the one or the other is the professional ethics of who takes care of him.
Our society established rules to protect the rights of the patient: they determine what is allowed and what's not, which penalties the professional will be liable to if he breaches the rules, which are the juridical procedures to start in case of violation.
That's why in Italy the Professional Association are born, to protect citizens and other professionals from abuses of people who's not allowed to work in a determined field; but my discussion started to answer a fundamental question: which are the moral principles that should be the basis of the rules that we have to respect?
We won't find the answer in any code of ethics, manual of law, civil or penal codes: it's all about the professional himself. We have to go back to consciousness and awareness.
The famous diktat "science and conscience" tells us something that is essential for a professional in the field of providing support and help: not only a complete and updated technical and theoretical knowledge, but also a recall to his moral conviction.
Ethics is therefore an extremely real task, not philosophical nor abstract: it's strictly linked to daily application and it has an immediate relapse on the real people who undergo to the activity of the professional.
People who operate in this field must act in the best way but has to be completely aware of what he can do and what he can't, which are the edges of his field and which are the "territory" in which he can't operate.
There isn't a perfect system in order to limit the violations, the only way to pursue is being aware of what's going on: the citizens has to get updated and find informations on the professionals, but the professionals has to deal with themselves. People who work in the field of helping patients has to be completely sincere, way more than in other professional fields.
This has to do with a precise idea: the responsibility.
Being responsible does not mean having certainty and confidence, as this is impossible in moral arguments, but essentially it involves the discipline of doubt: questioning one's own work, not for technical issues, but for a sense of doubt that is necessary to choose right from wrong.
To avoid mistakes we have to be meticulous, but our responsibility tells us that we are not infallible. The danger is to become automatic, to follow a scheme without questioning ourselves, to arrive to a stubborn practice. Every professional in this field has to remember that he is just a branch of a big tree: the tree includes all the professionals inside itself, and proceed to regulate this organism.
But the care professional, before finding the rules to follow, has to clarify, in his conscience, which tree he wants to be part of: he can't hide and he can't lie, truth and loyalty are the only way to pursue that purpose.