BMA guidance

How to approach an ethical question

This resource provides guidance on understanding how to recognise and approach a situation that raises ethical issues

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 31 January 2024
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

What you'll get from this guide

  • An understanding of how to recognise when a situation raises ethical issues
  • A comprehensive six-step approach to take when facing an ethical question
  • Tips on how to use existing guidance, such as from the General Medical Council, to guide actions where ethical questions arise
  • An example situation to help with visualisation

You may also be interested to see our core ethics guidance


How to use this guide

The complexity of an ethical question impacts the approach that doctors should take to address the issues that arise. The guidance is split into six consecutive steps which can guide doctors through important considerations when facing an ethical question. When using the guidance, doctors may find it helpful to work through each step in turn before they choose a course of action.


Six-step approach to addressing an ethical question

1. Recognise that you are facing an ethical question

2. Identify the ethically important components

3. Where necessary, seek additional information

4. Identify any relevant legal or professional guidance

5. Critically analyse the question

6. Support the decision with sound arguments