A society without values cannot succeed. Respect (human dignity), truth, and justice is the baseline for success and thriving communities.

Society is defined as a community with some type of order. The community’s values determine the rules that make order. However when individuals who make up society compromise the values that are beneficial to all, degradation is imminent. Moral breakdown then becomes a phenomenon in which a major degradation or complete loss of moral values takes place within a particular society.

Chisom Anekwe who recently passed away during childbirth at a Specialist Hospital in Lagos, is a clear reflection of how far we have fallen in upholding our personal, organisational and community values. Values that do nothing but to create a sense of humanity in our world.

In a nation where we are skeptical about the individuals who should uphold the highest regard for human life, regardless of the raging challenges, there should be a sense of concern and a solution driven mindset to change the narrative of stories the media churns out on a daily basis.

Why do we harm ourselves by failing to do what is right? Why are we irresponsible and blind to the needs of others? Why do we wait for the finality of death to wreck us before we wake up?

Medicine, for one is about compassion, service, integrity, excellence, professionalism, altruism, and trustworthiness, values that have always and will continue to guide the profession. These values are the basis for the principles, duties and policies that follow.

Like many organisations/ associations, these values are clearly stated but never practiced either because members do not understand the purpose of their values or have neither the will power to live up to the standards expected. Developing a strong moral compass could also be a failure here, when people do not have clearly defined codes of conduct.

Below are some values in medicine defined by The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario:

1. Compassion

Individual doctors serve their patients by assessing, diagnosing and treating patients, and through rehabilitation and habilitation, palliation, health promotion, and disease prevention. However, medicine is more than procedures and physicians are more than purveyors of technology. Compassion is fundamental to the relationship between the patient and the doctor. Compassion is defined as a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

2. Service

Service means working for the benefit of another. To serve their patients, physicians must be competent in the medical areas in which they practice. Competence requires the application of current knowledge with requisite skill and judgment needed to meet the patient’s medical needs. In this, physicians should strive for excellence.

Service is not only competence; it is also putting the patient first. A physician has professional responsibility to their patients, individually and collectively; their patients’ families; their own practice; and the health care system. However, at any given time a physician’s primary responsibility is to the individual patient before them.

Physicians, as a profession, also have a collective responsibility to the public, which is demonstrated by collaborating with and supporting colleagues and other health professionals, and participating in self-regulation in the public interest. The profession has a critical responsibility to the public as a whole via its responsibility to regulate.

3. Altruism

Altruism, as a principle of action, is the highest commitment to service. Altruism in medicine is defined as practicing unselfishly and with a regard for others.

Patients’ needs are paramount and must be considered before the individual physician’s needs, the needs of physicians as a group, or the public as a whole. This is not to say that physicians must sacrifice their health or other important aspects of their life for their patients. Rather, it means that when providing care to a patient, a physician should always put that patient first.

4. Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness is the cornerstone of the practice of medicine. It is the demonstration of compassion, service and altruism that earns the medical profession the trust of the public. This trust manifests itself in the social contract between the profession and the public, as well as the relationship an individual patient has with his or her doctor.

Maintaining trust is an important aspect of medical professionalism. Patients must be able to trust that the physician will always uphold the values of the profession; in the absence of the trusting relationship the physician cannot help the patient and the patient cannot benefit from the relationship.

Most professionals never take the time to think about their values, write them down, and clarify them. Maybe it sounds too simple or unnecessary. But clearly the values listed above are great when others reach out to us through these principles of action.  It implies that we turn concepts  such as service, trustworthiness, excellence, compassion, health, freedom, security, love etc., into values when they are important enough to have a significant and consistent influence over our behaviors and decisions.

The more we live and work in alignment with our values, the more likely we are to live a life we are proud of rather than one we regret.

What values do you associate with in your profession?

Looking at the National Anthem (Arise, O compatriots) of our nation, can Nigerians live up the the ethical values that strengthens it’s success as a Nation?


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