Ethics takes time, but not that long

Hansson, Mats G., Kihlbom, Ulrik, Tuvemo, Torsten , Olsen, Leif A. and Rodriguez, Alina (2007) Ethics takes time, but not that long. BMC Medical Ethics, 8 (1). p. 6. ISSN 1472-6939

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Time and communication are important aspects of the medical consultation. Physician behavior in real-life pediatric consultations in relation to ethical practice, such as informed consent (provision of information, understanding), respect for integrity and patient autonomy (decision-making), has not been subjected to thorough empirical investigation. Such investigations are important tools in developing sound ethical praxis.


21 consultations for inguinal hernia were video recorded and observers independently assessed global impressions of provision of information, understanding, respect for integrity, and participation in decision making. The consultations were analyzed for the occurrence of specific physician verbal and nonverbal behaviors and length of time in minutes.


All of the consultations took less than 20 minutes, the majority consisting of 10 minutes or less. Despite this narrow time frame, we found strong and consistent association between increasing time and higher ratings on all components of ethical practice: information, (β = .43), understanding (β = .52), respect for integrity (β = .60), and decision making (β = .43). Positive nonverbal behaviors by physicians during the consultation were associated particularly with respect for integrity (β =.36). Positive behaviors by physicians during the physical examination were related to respect for children's integrity.


Time was of essence for the ethical encounter. Further, verbal and nonverbal positive behaviors by the physicians also contributed to higher ratings of ethical aspects. These results can help to improve quality of ethical practice in pediatric settings and are of relevance for teaching and policy makers.

Keywords:Doctor-patient interaction, Verbal Behavior, Non-verbal communications, Medical ethics, Ethical practice
Subjects:B Subjects allied to Medicine > B900 Others in Subjects allied to Medicine
C Biological Sciences > C841 Health Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:22947
Deposited On:08 Jun 2016 14:11

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