Definition of The Medical Professional

Introduction by Dr Rodríguez Sendín:

“Some good things in life are so well kept that sometimes we get to forget about them. We can even miss some important aspects of the everyday life just because they have become routine. That’s just the way it is.

We relate to our patients on daily basis; the contact between patient and doctor is a natural part of what we do. In fact we deal with our patients in such an automatic way that we probably fail to stop and reflect on it often enough. Has our relationship with our patients ever changed? Are the rules still the same? Furthermore, I’d dare to say that many doctors still deal with their patients in pretty much the same manner than their medical parents or even grandparents did; some doctors still relate to their patients in exactly the same way they did decades ago. However, we all agree that society has changed a great deal in the last few years and that now, we all play by different rules. A mixture of social and political changes as well as the scientific advances has created a whole new world of expectations and the role of the medical community has changed dramatically.

Whether we like it or not, the relationship between a doctor and a patient, or the medical world and the society, has now become more of a social contract, a partnership. As it could be expected, the society and its values have evolved and so has this partnership, and not only at personal level but also in its corporative sense. Some basic things haven’t changed though and we need to praise this too; the trust between patient and doctor is timeless and also imperative to maintain the effectiveness of any medical encounter. I’d even dare to say that we need this trust to maintain our national health service.

No medical test will ever take over the importance of mutual trust.

It is for all these reasons that we strongly believe on looking at our society straight in the eye and reflect on all these changes. The General Council of the Official College of doctors* in Spain, just like its counterparts in the rest of the world are doing, wants to examine the principles and the evolutions of the patient-doctor partnership.

The Assembly at the General Medical Organization* has signed off a list of definitions aimed at reminding us all about our deep compromise with society.

Within the next few pages, I’d like to share three extremely important concepts for us doctors: the medical profession, the medical professional and medical professionalism. But of course, this is no more than just the beginning of a long path ahead of us. We want to take responsibility for keeping our ethics code up to date and evolve at the same speed than the society we live in.

With this document that you have in your hands, we want to transmit a very simple but yet essential idea: each and every doctor working in Spain will not only need great knowledge and appropriate skills to do his/her job but also be fully committed to a set of attitude and behaviour rules accepted in the international medical community as medical professionalism.

Please let me state something that might be obvious but most definitively worth mentioning: The objective of this public document is not only the doctors, since most of them have always practiced the rules of medical professionalism appropriately; the aim of this public display is the doctors of the future, the health professionals in general, the administration and the members of the academic world. But above all we want to show our deep and unbreakable compromise with each individual patient and with the society as a whole; they have always placed their trust on us and we feel proud and grateful for this honour and we are obliged to keep focused on offering only the best we can.”

April 2010


It is an occupation aimed at protecting, promoting and restoring good health with a focus on identifying, diagnosing and treating illnesses using scientific and highly specialised knowledge. An occupation where caring for the patients is the first concern and the following principles are applicable:

  • Scientific knowledge has to be instigated, used and transmitted.
  • Permanent evolution is used to improve service.
  • Knowledge gets used in an ethical and competent manner.
  • Medical practice is always aimed at improving the health needs and providing wellbeing at communities and their individuals.


A medical professional is a qualified doctor who abides and is fully committed to the ethical principles and values of the medical profession.


Medical professionalism comprises all the basic ethical and deontological principles that sustain the commitment of the medical professionals to the society they serve. These principles evolve with social changes and also help to sustain the trust of people on their doctors.

- Fundamental principles of medical professionalism:

Medicine has to be practised in a way that the patient’s rights are always first and this principle provides a firm ground to the trust that the patient has on his/her doctor. The principles that also apply to this medical ethical behaviour are those of autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice.

- Fundamental values of medical professionalism:

Doctors must keep their knowledge, skills and judgement at the service of the people they work for, with the firm aim of promoting health, prevent and treat illness and improve their wellbeing. The medical professional should therefore be committed to:

  • Using their knowledge and the resources available in the best possible way.
  • Being compassionate when faced with suffering.
  • Staying up to date and continuously improving the service they provide.
  • Contributing with other health professionals and institutions in order to improve health and promote wellbeing.