The study of ethics is a broad branch of philosophy that covers morality-based
issues and dilemmas of character, situation and decision. There are many areas
of study, or types, ofethics; these are further broken down into fields and sub-fields.
Following is a brief overview of some of the most commonly studied fields of
ethics: normative ethics, moral psychology anddescriptive ethics.

According to Wikipedia, the FREE encyclopedia, The definition of Normal ethics,
moral psychology and descriptive ethics is as follows respectively :
1. Normative ethics is the study of ethical action. It is the branch of philosophical
ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one
ought to act, morally speaking.

2. Moral psychology is a field of study in both philosophy and psychology. Some use
the term “moral psychology” relatively narrowly to refer to the study of moral
development.[1] However, others tend to use the term more broadly to include any
topics at the intersection of ethics and psychology and philosophy of mind.[2] Some
of the main topics of the field are moral judgment, moral reasoning, moral
responsibility, moral development, moral character (especially as related to
virtue ethics), altruism,psychological egoism, moral luck, and moral disagreement.

3. Descriptive ethics, also known as comparative ethics, is the study of people’s
beliefs about morality. It contrasts with prescriptive or normative ethics, which
is the study of ethical theories that prescribe how people ought to act,Descriptive
ethics is a form of empirical research into the attitudes of individuals or groups
of people. Those working on descriptive ethics aim to uncover people’s beliefs about
such things as values, which actions are right and wrong, and which characteristics
of moral agents are virtuous.

With above brief definitions being stated regarding ETHICS, I would like to concentrate
on ethics as it is related to the dental profession.

Can ETHICS be taught or learned ? Yes it can be taught at an early age but I’m not so
sure after an individual reaches adulthood. Most people are usually taught ethics by
their parents and other authority figures when they are young, and by the time they
reach adulthood, their ethics are pretty much set in stone.

I firmly believe that if an individual is not an ethical person by the time they reach
adulthood, I don’t believe it can be taught after the fact. You are either ethical
or not ethical. There is no in-between status regarding ETHICS in my personal opinion!

During the 50’s and through the 70’s, the dentist’s code of ethics in North America
defined ethics in terms of behavior towards other dentists rather than towards the
public domain !

Dentists according to the Code of Ethics, must hang together lest they be hanged
separately. This attitude created a dilemma that underlined most of the problems
that faced dentistry as a profession in those years. Is a man moral who is honest
with his colleagues but deliberately misleading to his or her patients?

Historically, the art of healing and magic have been closely allied, mystery and
secrecybeing the major ingredients of both.

The healer was a man or woman who had the knowledge, abilities and power which set
him or her apart from all others. Care was taken to maintain the mystery and the
distance between healer and patient. It is from such beginnings that, yesterday’s
and today’s healing arts have sprung.And one might say that they have not sprung too far !

The dental societies across the nation imposed complete censorship on the public
writings and utterances by its members. The rational being that the “layperson”
did no thave the background to interpret professional information.

In the hands of the public a little knowledge was a dangerous thing and any hard
facts may be misconstrued. So drug prescriptions were written in latin and doctors
used the term ” hemmorage” instead of bleeding and “sequellae” instead of consequences.

The Code Of Ethics for the dental profession was a modern outgrowth of the doctor’s
ancientdesires to keep their secrets from the public. In a copy of the code of any
local dental society, one would have been hard pressed to find any convincing emphasis
that the dentist’s
first obligation was to his or her patient. The code as written was simply a manual
of business conduct applying to the behavior of dentists towards another.

Therefore in the written Code of Ethics,there were articles relating to office signs,
advertising,and taking patients away from other dentists, just to mention a few. To
say anything that might be interpreted as a criticism of another dentist’s work was
then, thought to be unethical.

It was thought to be unfair to publically be critical of another fellow dentist’s work
because the critic did not know the circumstances under which the dental work was done.
For example, the patient may have been a chronic gagger or perhaps a epileptic who had
frequent petite -mal siezures. Such behavior, certainly would have compromised the
treatment that was given to that particular patient and could have resulted in
unsatisfactory work and /or incompetence.

This argument though univesally heard, was absolute nonsense ! Inquiry among
competent dentists and the experience I had in my own practice led me to believe that
satisfactory results could be obtained if the dentist was willing to follow standard
procedures and take the TIME and EFFORT necessary to do the dental procedures in a
appropriate and competent manner.

To briefly summerise, in the old days,the code of ethics simply mediated the business dealings
among dentists and was setup to further the privledge, convenience, mutual advantage and profit
of dentists.

The time had come for a big change ! The public should have learned by now to respect the dentist
because of their knowledge, ability and legitimate accomplishments and not because of his or her
distance, arrogance and contrived aura of mystery.

The past performances of the dental profession,may not suggest that they deserve to continue to
be their own judges. If the healing professions do not demonstrate that they are capable of
maintaining a high standard of moral conduct,then the public will decide to intervene.

In February of 1992,The Canadian Dental Association, published a new Code of Ethics. This code
is now the national guideline of the dental profession of Canada. In each province,the licensing
authorities adopt this Code or a similar code to guide and set standards in their respective
This product is the resource for the profession that relects both current thought on issues
and provides an etical framework responsive to changing needs and values.

The dentist’s primary responsibilty in my view is to the “PATIENT”. The new Code of Ethics
of the Candian Dental Association, states this unequivocally and accordingly directs the ethical
conduct of every dentist licensed in Canada.
This code of Ethics is as et of principles of professional conduct to which all dentists must
aspire to fulfill their duties to thie patients, to the public. to the profession and to their

This code identifies the basic moral commitment of dentistry and serves as a source of education
and reflection paricularly for those who about to enter the profession.

For those outside of the profession,the Code provides public identification of the profession’s
ethical expectations and expresses to the larger community the values and ideals that
the dental profession as a whole, proclaims. Did you know that there is a Dental Patient’s
Charter of Rights ?

Her is the the Dental Patient’s Charter of Rights :

1. You have the right to be examined and diagnosed by a licensing dentist.
2. You have a right to an explanation of treatment recommended and their costs before
treatment begins.
3. You have the right to receive treatment that meets the accepted standards of the profession.
4. You have a right to be treated in a safe and healthy environment.
5. You have the right be cared for by the dentist of your choice regardless, of race or religion.
6. You have the right to receive prompt emergency service whether you can pay or not .
7. You have a right to an avenue in which you can file a complaint against a dentist.

Dentistry in part, is a profession because the decision of its members involve choices
between conflicting values when providing care for patients. These values should be
carefully condidered by the dentists and decisions regarding them should be made prior
to treatment!

All the above being said however, the dentists does still have the obligation to his or
her colleagues. In the interest of the public, dentists are encouraged to consult with a
previous dentists concerning any treatment rendered. Through active communication, it should
be possible to advise a patient how to achieve an appropriate reolution if a problem occurs.

In today’s world of high technology, computers, i-pads,i-pods, cell phones, the general
public has become much more aware of the dental services that are available and therefore,
have developed a much higher dental IQ ! This in my view, is a good thing!

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