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A Journal on Forensic Medicine
Minerva Medicolegale 2003 June;123(2):95-114
Legislative deficiencies and cavities: the vicarious functions of the medical deontological code
A deontological code expresses respect for the dignity of a profession; the meaning of a professional association resides in its ability to protect the constitutive principles of this dignity. Dignity is defined as ''the respect a person conscious of his own worthiness has for himself and imposes on others through appropriate behavior'' (FNOM Guide). This sense of worthiness is common to all the intellectual professions and finds its highest expression in medicine. The practice of medicine necessarily leads to a highly personal form of ethical involvement on which jurisdictional norms rest. Article 32 of the Italian constitution, which protects health as an individual right and a collective interest, entrusts physicians and other health care workers with the protection of the mental and physical well being of the population. The mainstays of Hippocratic deontology were the respect for life and the dignity of the person being cared for. Deontological principles are part of the historical process that led to the formation of the modern state founded on the affirmation of the political, civil and social rights of its citizens. The protection of health as a ''resource'' has become a social right. Within the current context, the needs of society and medical advances have widened the scope of these principles to include the autonomy of the individual and justice. From this development a new deontology has emerged which is responsive to innovation and sensitive to compelling issues, respectful but free to move within the limits of the law, attentive to ethical implications in science and medical practice, capable of settling the conflict between ethical norms and legislative administration. The massive intervention of the state in the health care sector and the soaring demand for medical care and technology have raised the discussion between medicine, economic resource and ethics to a new level that includes the concept of professional practice, the definition of health, and the role of justice in civil society. The Deontological Code currently in effect, approved on 3 October 1998, translated into legal norms the principle of justice, which had scarcely been dealt with on the deontological level in the past.