We dentists come from many different generations and backgrounds, so when we talk about ethics what do we mean and who are our role models? Do your ethics derive from family, friends, dental school, TV programmes, social media, etc.?
We constantly talk about working in an ethical way, and that dentistry must be delivered by ethical professionals. Where do ethics sit in an NHS practice under great pressure to deliver UDAs amid a sea of decay, patients who either don’t or can’t care more, and the need to deliver high quality dentistry?
Personally, I have no idea.
My ethics stemmed from my military service immediately post-qualification from Manchester Dental School. Following a couple of years in a boring military dental facility in a huge garrison in Germany, I was posted to an Airborne Medical Unit in Aldershot. Having passed the parachute selection course I served with airborne soldiers recently returned from the Falklands War. Their ethics were that they were prepared to die for British Nationals thousands of miles away who were threatened by an invasion by a military junta. They were prepared to die for their friends and colleagues. They were prepared to sacrifice their own lives for the good of others.
Airborne forces have a belief that they, as a group, can overcome any obstacle placed in their way and that they will ultimately succeed. There are occasional setbacks but by working together with like-minded individuals they can and will achieve their aim. Further on in my military career I was also fortunate to serve and work with the British army’s elite forces. This took professionalism to another level.
It was a fairly humbling experience, and I learnt lessons that I have not forgotten and that have served me well throughout my subsequent career in mainstream dentistry in the UK. When I first left the military to work as a civilian dentist, ethics and doing the right thing came sharply into focus.
What it has taught me is that there are good and bad people out there. If someone is “bad” to you, give them a second chance as we can all be misjudged and others can have an “off” day. But if they are “bad” a second time, having been given another chance, then it’s time to move on. There are enough good people out there that you don’t have to put up with bad people.
We know that dentistry is about doing the right thing for our patients over a long period of time, and that’s true right from start to finish.