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

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.

Confidentiality and health records toolkit

Our toolkit is your starting point to address difficult decisions arising out of the duty to protect confidentiality.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Disclosing patient data for secondary purposes

We provide guiding principles to assist LMCs and GP practices in considering how to respond to requests for patient data for secondary purposes.

Giving patients access to medical reports

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

Taking and using pictures and recordings of patients

The guidance covers photos, videos and recordings of patients of all types. The guidance reflects the basic principles of the GMC guidance on making and using visual and audio recordings of patients.

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.

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.

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.

Victims of forced marriage

Practical advice on your responsibilities when consulted by individuals who are either victims of forced marriage, or who may fear that they are going to be forced into marriage.

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 survey

Find out how you can take part in the survey to help inform the BMA's position on physician-assisted dying.

The BMA's position on physician-assisted dying

The BMA's policy position on physician-assisted dying and how it has been reached.

End-of-life care and physician-assisted dying project

In 2015, we undertook a major project seeking views from our members and the public on their experiences, views, and perceptions of end-of-life care and physician-assisted dying.

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.

Overseas visitors and migrants

Treating refugees and asylum seekers 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.

BMA view on charging overseas visitors

We have been consistently critical of charging overseas visitors for NHS care, which we believe has a negative impact on both patients and doctors.

Treating overseas visitors

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

Abortion

The law and ethics of abortion

This page provides information on the law and ethics of abortion and the BMA’s policy on abortion, including the decriminalisation of abortion.

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.

The use of solitary confinement in the youth secure estate

The BMA’s position statement on solitary confinement, which calls for an end to its use on young people. Practical guidance for doctors working with detained children and young people.

The doctors' role in the youth secure estate

Detained young people have often been let down by individuals and agencies in their care. We look at how all doctors can make a difference to offending young people’s lives.

Health and human rights in immigration detention

This BMA report explores the role of doctors in protecting and promoting the health-related human rights of detained individuals.