Culture and Ethics in Ghanaian Professional Life

Topics: Ethics, Hippocratic Oath, Medicine Pages: 5 (1664 words) Published: May 13, 2013
Cultural elements invariably affect the delivery of professional services in whatsoever form. Professional practices are strongly guided by appropriate code of ethics. Sound ethical decision making is based on a process that involves multiple steps some of which are taken in advance and some of which are taken at the time ethical dilemma presents itself (Carter, Bennett, Jones & Naggy, 1999). The development and the application of ethical principles and standard in professional lives are strongly influenced by cultural elements.

The influence of culture on ethical professional practice could be traced back to the time of the development of some selected code of ethics. Professional codes in the West typically follow the Hippocratic tradition (Veatch, 19997) which is often acknowledged by both physicians and lay people as the foundation of medical ethics for physicians in the west. Among the Christian cultures, a new version of the Hippocratic oath called the oath According to Hippocrates insofar as a Christian may swear it (Jones, 1924), emerged for Christian physicians with some changes to reflect the culture of the Christian Kingdom. These includes removal of references to the Greek gods and goddesses, the dropping of the prohibition against surgery whilst strengthening the prohibition on abortion (Veatch, 19997). Similarly, the Percival’s medical ethics which become the foundation of modern Anglo-American professional physicians’ ethics also show some variation with the Hippocratic Oath. The religious virtue of purity and holiness of the Hippocratic Oath are replaced with virtues of gentleman: Physicians should “unite tenderness with steadiness and condescension with authority” (Percival, 1927).

Culture could be described as the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, speech, customs, beliefs, values, social forms and material traits of a racial, religious or social group. Culture can help to define family systems i.e how the family is defined, child rearing practices, social relationships, perceptions or beliefs on physical health and mental health, help seeking behaviors as well as communication patterns. These cultural elements undoubtedly affect professional practice in Ghana. Therapeutic approaches to treatment of physical, mental and psychological disorders are broadly categorized by Twumasi (2005) as Traditional and Scientific treatment. The traditional medicine is that service performed through the utilization of magico-religious acts and concepts (Lystead, 1958) whilst scientific medicine or modern medicine indicate a view in which the rational explanation of natural events is in terms of cause and effect, (Twumasi, 2005). Twumasi (2005) recognized four main types of traditional healers: Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA’S), Faith Healers (Pastors), Spiritualist-Diviners and Traditional herbalists.

Traditional medicine is conceptualized as all treatment services through the utilization of magico-religious acts and concepts. It is the oldest practicing treatment option in Ghana. Traditional healers are the first line of care for many Ghanaians, both because the healers are indigenous to the community and because their techniques are familiar and comforting, more so than the newer techniques which may seem foreign and impersonal. The training, operations of these practitioners differ significantly. The development and application of ethical principles in professional practice is heavily endowed in the training programs. However, the training programs of most if not all of these practitioners does not make provision for ethical principles. For example, the skills of becoming TBA’S are learnt from relatives by watching a trainer in action in an informal atmosphere (Twumasi, 2005)....
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