Medical ethicists apply the study of morals and values to the field of medicine. They look at the actual application of ethics in real-life settings, such as hospitals or hospices. Medical ethics, also called bioethics, also involves philosophy and studying the history and culture of ethical decision making. A person who works as a medical ethicist has a wide variety of jobs to choose from.
Many medical ethicists go on to become professors at medical schools. They teach medical ethics, helping their students prepare to face the challenging ethical questions that may arise in their practices. They teach students how to approach a medical moral quandary and integrate it with hospital or healthcare policy. Professors also publish theories about medical ethics and practical applications in peer-reviewed journals.
Medical ethicists who are involved in the creation of policy may work as advisers to government agencies. Some may also have a law degree and help create policy with a focus on the ethical viewpoint. For example, they may help determine how to use limited healthcare resources to meet unlimited healthcare needs. They may help the government create protocols for administering limited vaccine supplies during a pandemic, or help an agency decide how to run an organ-donation database when the demand is much greater than the supply.
Medical ethicists work as book authors, columnists or journalists. They may write columns for science magazines about medical ethics or publish textbooks for colleges about the study of ethics. They may also give talks on ethics or contribute ethics-based columns to news organizations.
Medical ethicists work in hospitals and other healthcare organizations, where they advise on how to approach ethically difficult cases. For example, they may work with doctors on the topics of informed consent for experimental treatments; religious diversity among patients; proper ways to approach reproductive procedures; and helping hospices deal with issues surrounding dying.