Sentry Page Protection
Ethical Scenario 18
Is it ethical for healthcare professionals to strike? If so, under what conditions?
Healthcare professionals striking is rare in the UK, although common in certain third world countries. Balanced against the right to strike on a first glance are non-maleficence (striking can clearly damage patient’s health) and beneficence (striking does not treat patients or make them better). This position is easy to adopt, and frequently the one taken by media outlets and indeed many members of the medical profession.
However, the issue is far more nuanced. Medicine cannot function with financial support and infrastructure from society - the responsibility for patients’ health does not rest solely with healthcare professionals. Depriving healthcare professionals of proper wages, working conditions and equipment puts patients at risk. Therefore, society must take proactive measures to prevent this situation. Arguably, depriving the right to strike is morally and ethically indefensible, as it entails employees having no true power or say over the conditions of their employment.
Overall, the key is considering whether or not patients are being harmed. Are healthcare professionals walking out simply to further their own interests, or are they walking out from a genuine belief that their actions will help patients in the future, by improving their ability to work?