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Professionals in many fields must follow a code of conduct that prescribes moral and ethical behavior as applicable to their job. While each discipline has different professional responsibilities, the guiding principles are similar.
Information presented to the public must be truthful and accurate. This includes testimony in a legal case, results of medical studies and financial record-keeping and audits.
Conflict of Interest
A conflict of interest occurs when an individual, or a member of his family, can gain financially or personally from a decision. Ethical behavior requires avoidance of even the appearance of a conflict; in a legal situation a firm can't represent the two opponents in a case -- unless they create a clear division within the firm known as a "Chinese Fire Wall." A family member of a politician can't be given a contract without an open bidding process that does not involve the politician.
Information learned in the course of employment cannot be shared with outsiders. For medical professionals this means not sharing information about patients.
The American Medical Association defines sexual misconduct as an intimate relationship that occurs concurrently with a physician-patient relationship. They say, "sexual or romantic interactions between physicians and patients detract from the goals of the physician-patient relationship; may exploit the vulnerability of the patient; may obscure the physician's objective judgment concerning the patient's health care; and ultimately may be detrimental to the patient's well-being."
Many companies and professional associations have developed an ethics policy or code of conduct that all employees and members must adhere to. These outline the main responsibilities and potential ethical dilemmas that may arise. Some organizations, including many governments, have an ethics adviser to enforce their ethics code.
Based in Toronto, Tanya Gulliver has been writing professionally for more than 20 years. She is pursuing a doctorate in environmental studies focusing on catastrophic disasters. She was first published as a pre-teen, co-writing a weekly events column for her local paper where her goal was to frequently mention her friends and family in the paper.