Ethics

Our ethics guidance advises doctors in the UK on the legal and ethical issues you may encounter in your professional clinical practice.

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Medical students

Ethics toolkit for medical students

This toolkit gives medical students an introduction to common ethical problems they may encounter and practical ways of thinking to help solve issues.

Confidentiality and health records

Confidentiality and health records toolkit

Our toolkit is your starting point when considering sharing confidential information. It covers sharing confidential information for the direct care of your individual patient and sharing for other reasons.

Retention of health records

How long should patient medical records be kept retained? Here we set out tables of types of records and the length of time they should be kept.

Access to health records

How to handle requests, including subject access requests, requests from third parties such as insurers and the police and requests for records of deceased patients.

Patients recording consultations

Our guidance answers if patients can record doctors without permission or covertly, how to respond when a patient asks to record their appointment and what to do if a covert recording is posted online.

Requests for medical information from insurers

We cover what you need to know when dealing with requests from insurance companies - principles to follow, subject access requests and electronic signatures.

Sharing local electronic patient records for direct patient care

The following principles are to support GP practices considering how to share patient records with other healthcare organisations.

GDPR privacy notices for GP practices

Posters you can use in your GP practice to notify patients about how you handle their data.

GPs as data controllers under GDPR

GP data controllers' responsibilities under the GDPR, the main themes of the legislation and ensuring compliance. The guidance should be read alongside the UK Data Protection Act 2018.

Giving patients access to medical reports

Steps for doctors to take when a patient asks to see their medical reports.

Appointing a data protection officer (DPO)

We give guidance on how to appoint a data protection officer in a GP practice to comply with GDPR, who they are and what they do.

Doctors' responsibilities with anti-radicalisation strategy

Explaining the doctors' role in the Prevent training programme to counter terrorism and how it affects confidentiality and consent.

NHSX data strategy briefing

We summarise the key themes and priorities in the 2021 strategy from NHSX 'Data saves lives: reshaping health and care with data'. The strategy looks at how improved data storing and processes will bring together the NHS and social care.

Adults who lack capacity

Clinically-assisted nutrition and hydration

This guidance provides detailed practical advice on the issues you might encounter when making a decision to stop, start, or continue CANH for adults who lack capacity.

Needlestick injuries and blood-borne viruses

Guidance on what to do in situations where the patient lacks the capacity to consent to testing for blood-borne viruses, when a health professional has sustained needlestick injury.

Mental Capacity Act toolkit

This toolkit acts as a prompt to doctors when they are providing care and treatment for people who lack, or who may lack, the mental capacity to make decisions on their own behalf.

Adults with incapacity in Scotland and Northern Ireland

This guidance looks at the decision-making process in relation to adults and their mental capacity in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Best interests decision-making for adults who lack capacity toolkit

This toolkit provides practical guidance to assist doctors in making decisions in the best interests of adults who lack capacity in England and Wales.

Deprivation of liberty safeguards

The most important points for health professionals to consider if a deprivation of liberty has taken, or is taking, place and a checklist to assess the situation.

Seeking patient consent toolkit

When and how to seek consent for treatment and research, ethical and legal principles that apply and common misconceptions surrounding consent.

Consent in paternity testing

This guidance sets out doctors’ legal and ethical responsibilities when asked to assist with paternity testing.

Parental responsibility and consent

The responsibilities parents have in respect of their child's healthcare, including consent to treatment.

Books from the BMA

Ethics books available from the BMA

The BMA has published a number of books on a range of medico-legal and ethical issues which are available for purchase. BMA members can enjoy a 15% discount off the cover price.

Safeguarding

Adult safeguarding toolkit

This toolkit is about the doctor's role in safeguarding adults who may be at risk of abuse or neglect.

Domestic abuse

Raising awareness of domestic abuse and strategies for doctors to identify and reduce the damage it does.

Adults at risk, confidentiality and disclosure of information

This guidance sets out the current legal and ethical position on disclosure of information relating to adults who retain capacity but may be subject to some form of duress.

End of life

Physician assisted dying

The BMA adopted a neutral position on PAD (physician-assisted dying) at the annual meeting in September 2021. Read more about what PAD is, the law across the world, the survey we did and the BMA's position.

Organ donation

The BMA has long advocated a 'soft' opt-out system for organ donation across the UK.

Decisions relating to CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)

Joint guidance from the BMA, Resuscitation Council (UK) and Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on decisions about CPR – including decisions not to attempt CPR.

Responding to patient requests for assisted suicide

Ethical principles for doctors to consider when a patient makes a request to, or makes it known they will, end their life.

Personal ethics

Expressing your personal beliefs as a doctor

Guidance on conscientious objection and expressing your religious and cultural views when practising as a doctor.

Transparency for doctors with competing interests

Read our guidance for doctors on how to identify and manage any competing interests.

Ethics of social media use

Social media can be a great resource for doctors. But it's not without its risks. This guidance outlines some of the benefits and risks involved in using social media, helping you use it safely and ethically.

Children and young people

Children and young people ethics toolkit

Legal and ethical factors doctors need to consider when making decisions about children and young people such as consent, refusal of treatment and confidentiality.

Non-therapeutic male circumcision toolkit

Doctors may be asked to refer a child for, or to carry out, non-therapeutic male circumcision (NTMC). This toolkit provides you with practical guidance relevant to NTMC in the UK.

Sexual offences and under 18-year-olds in Northern Ireland

Find out how the change in law on sexual offences in Northern Ireland affects you as a health professional.

Refugees, overseas visitors and vulnerable migrants

Refugee and asylum seeker patient health toolkit

Do you treat patients who are refugees or asylum seekers? Find out more about their specific health needs and how to overcome common barriers.

Access to healthcare for overseas visitors

Doctors' roles and responsibilities when treating overseas visitors, particularly in regard to charging.

Abortion

The law and ethics of abortion

Information on the law and ethics of abortion and BMA policy, including decriminalisation.

Working in conflicts and emergencies

Ethics toolkit for armed forces doctors

How to best fulfill your ethical obligations when making difficult decisions while working as a doctor in the armed forces.

Working in conflicts and emergencies toolkit

To prepare humanitarian health professionals with the ethical dilemmas they may face when working in conflicts.

Working in detention settings

The doctor's role in restraint in custodial settings

This guidance was developed to assist doctors as they navigate their ethical and legal responsibilities in circumstances where restraint or control is used.

Solitary confinement and children and young people

Read our position statement on solitary confinement, which calls for an end to its use on young people and provides guidance for doctors.

The doctor's role in the youth secure estate

This report explores the role of doctors in protecting and promoting the health and wellbeing of children and young people – before, during, and after a period of detention.

Health and human rights in immigration detention

This report explores the role of doctors in protecting and promoting the health-related human rights of detained individuals and calls for action from the government on detention policy and practice.

Forensic and secure environments ethics toolkit

This toolkit is designed to help you navigate the main areas of ethical concern you are likely to encounter in your practice as a forensic physician, including consent, treating vulnerable patients and working with dual loyalties.