A code of ethics for the health system

Greece’s health system, one of the most socially and politically sensitive sectors, is ailing. One of the most serious chronic problems concerns the systematic violations of the medical code of conduct. The proposed legislation announced yesterday by Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis foresees a comprehensive change in the code of ethics that will make it more efficient and eliminate disgraceful practices such as bribes. To be sure, legal amendments guarantee neither the smooth implementation of the code nor the cultivation of a robust mentality among national health system employees. To be sure, it is not a minister’s duty to police clinics. But he does have an obligation to draw up a pragmatic code of conduct that can be applied in practice. It is necessary to build a consensus between scientific groups and union organizations. But, most importantly, the government must prove its political will to overcome the current situation. The minister’s pledges yesterday are a step in the right direction as they seek to strike the requisite balance. The bill aims to protect patients as well as doctors from unfair or defamatory allegations. Kaklamanis’s intentions are good – that cannot be questioned. He has a medical background himself, which allows him to have first-hand knowledge of the situation in Greece’s clinics. This, of course, does not guarantee success as a plethora of small and big interests perceive the reforms as a threat. It is an open secret that for many doctors the monthly salary only makes up a small part of their income. These doctors will naturally try to defend the current state of affairs which entails numerous violations of the code of ethics. For that reason it is important that hefty fines go hand in hand with systematic and strict monitoring. Most crucially, the government must rally to its cause those many doctors who have performed their duty without yielding to the various temptations. This is the only way to eliminate the deep-rooted problems perpetuated by the sick mentality of doctors and patients alike.