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RCOG release: President of the RCOG discusses the ethics of medical performance

News 24 June 2013

Our biggest ethical challenge in obstetrics and gynaecology is to ensure that our patients receive the best possible care at any time of day or night, says Dr Tony Falconer, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), today at the College’s World Congress in Liverpool.

He states that there are traditionally four fundamental principles and values that underpin medical ethics. These include: a doctor’s appreciation of the integrity of the patient as an individual; a doctor’s commitment to acting in the best interests of the patient; a doctor’s obligation to do no harm; and a doctor's obligation to see the fair distribution of scarce health resources.

However, in light of the Francis Inquiry, the profession is now seriously questioning basic professional values around patient care and performance, says Dr Falconer.

He adds: “Ethical controversy abounds in our discipline at the clinical interface between science, investigation, treatment and humanity. The boundaries of assisted conception, genetic screening, gynaecological cosmetic surgery, cloning and abortion are all topics we must discuss on a regular basis.

“But we are missing the most fundamental challenge of all - ensuring that our patients receive the best possible care at all times day or night? Is not our greatest ethical challenge to ensure that care is equal to all our citizens and for the greater good?”

Furthermore, he states that the level of performance is very high in most consultant units but there are some areas where women are being disadvantaged by poor care.

This is being addressed with the introduction of revalidation, says Dr Falconer, as we are entering a period of assessment, accountability and regulation of clinical performance.

He concludes by saying that the RCOG will continue to strive to improve the quality of care for all women globally, but it can only do this with full knowledge of the ethical values that are so fundamental to the work of the specialty.


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email


To read Dr Falconer’s full speech, ‘The Ethics of medical performance’, please click here.

The congress will be held at ACC Liverpool, home to BT Convention Centre and Echo Arena. For more information and for the full programme please click here. For live updates from the Congress please click here. To download the RCOG Congress App search RCOG in the App Store. To tweet about the Congress please use the hashtag #RCOGCongress13.