CSMLS Code of Ethics
The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) has developed a Code of Ethics in consultation with its members. The Code serves to define and expand the inherent ethical concepts7 contained in the CSMLS Code of Professional Conduct, to document expectations of ethical behaviour for all medical laboratory professionals (MLPs), and to provide a framework during professional and personal self-evaluation.
The ethical principles contained herein are not listed in order of importance, but rather, should be considered in relation to each other during their application within situations involving ethical dilemmas.
MLPs shall practise in compliance with all current provincial and federal legislation for the protection and integrity of patients and their specimens, colleagues, health care providers, society, the environment and one’s self. Within this practice, on a fundamental level, they will conduct themselves in a manner that is conscientious, compassionate, honest and equitable.
MLPs shall uphold the vision of the CSMLS Code of Ethics by adhering to the following principles of ethical conduct, as well as the underlying concepts.
1.1 Practise only those disciplines within the medical laboratory profession for which CSMLS certification has been achieved.
1.2 Practise only those procedures for which qualification has been achieved or officially delegated by an appropriate institutional authority, where the member has the current requisite knowledge, skills and judgment to ensure and demonstrate competence.
1.3 Recognize risk prone situations in order to minimize harm to patients, staff and self.
1.4 Utilize professional and institutional mechanisms to intervene when witness to unsafe, incompetent or unethical practices.
1.5 Assume responsibility for errors one has committed or observed and take immediate action to prevent or minimize associated harm.
1.6 Advocate for working environments that support safe, competent and ethical practices.
2.1 Understand and comply with applicable privacy legislation and policies regarding the collection, use and disclosure of confidential information.
2.2 Preserve and protect the confidentiality of any information, either medical or personal, acquired through professional contact (in person, through collegial conversations, via medical records etc.) to safeguard patients.
2.3 Abstain from using confidential information to the detriment of a patient, or with direct or indirect intent to benefit oneself or another person.
2.4 Access information relevant only to the professional task being performed.
2.5 Communicate and release information only with written or formal authorization, or where so ordered or expressly authorized by law.
2.6 Recognize and disclose conflicts of interest and resolve them in a manner which maintains the integrity of personal health information and protects the best interest of patient care.
3.1 Reflect on one’s fitness to practise and expand one's knowledge, skills, judgments and attitudes through continued professional development.
3.2 Contribute to the development of the profession by sharing one's knowledge and experience.
3.3 Participate in interprofessional collaborative and educational processes, and the development of partnerships which contribute to positive patient outcomes.
3.4 Contribute to the advancement of the profession by:
- improving the body of knowledge,
- adopting scientific advances that benefit the patient, and
- maintaining high standards of practice and education.
4.1 Be responsible first to the patient, then to society and the environment for safe and lawful practice and the sustainable use of resources.
4.2 Advocate one’s role as a leader in the promotion of health and delivery of quality care.
4.3 Be responsible for the quality, integrity and reliability of the laboratory services one provides.
4.4 Ensure organizational consent processes are followed, including:
- Patients have the right to be informed
- Patients have the right to refuse or withdraw from procedures
Behaviour and Attitude
5.1 Provide service with dignity and respect to all, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, age, health status, or mental or physical disability.
5.2 Prioritize one's work to ensure that each patient receives optimum care.
5.3 Encourage the trust and confidence of the public through high standards of professional competence, conduct and deportment.
5.4 Be reasonably accessible within the confines of your duties.
5.5 Collaborate with patients, colleagues and other healthcare providers to provide effective patient care.
CSMLS graciously acknowledges the usage of ethical codes originated by our organizational partners, including: Newfoundland and Labrador College for Medical Laboratory Science, College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Alberta, Saskatchewan Association of Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technicians, Ordre professionnel des technologistes médicaux du Québec, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, The Danish Association of Biomedical Laboratory Scientists, and Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists. CSMLS reviewed all medical laboratory provincial regulators’ Code of Ethics and therefore, similarities in codes may be identified.
CSMLS commits to reviewing the Code of Ethics bi-annually to ensure its relevance and applicability to an ever evolving society and profession.
Approved by the CSMLS Board of Directors (September 2015 - Reaffirmed November 2020)
See the Code of Ethics Guidance Document for source references
Principles of Bioethics
Comprised by Beauchamp and Childress2, the principles of biomedical ethics have become one of the most widely used frameworks worldwide for considering ethical issues in health care. Unlike some approaches that apply ethical principles to individual cases (top-down approach), these principles guide common thinking about ethical principles in general practice (bottom-up approach). The four principles of bioethics describe a set of minimum moral conditions on the behaviour of healthcare professionals.
Autonomy: Also known as the principle of human dignity, autonomy is Latin for “self-rule"3. Healthcare workers have an obligation to respect the decisions made by cognizant patients about their own treatment. Patients must be fully informed about their illness. As long as patients are competent they have the right to make their own decisions about their care, even if their family and physician do not agree (informed consent).
Beneficence: Do what’s good for the patient under all circumstances. Patients do not necessarily have to agree with their physician on their course of treatment. We must respect the good as determined by the patient (see Autonomy).
Non-maleficence: First do no harm. Disclosure of risk or side-effects of treatment is necessary, and is especially important when a cure is not possible. In treating healthy patients (e.g., preventive care, immunizations) we have to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Beneficence differs “from non-maleficence in that beneficence is a positive requirement for action, whereas non-maleficence is a negative prohibition against action.” 4
Justice: Justice refers to how limited healthcare resources are distributed. We must treat all patients equally, fairly and impartially (respect their rights). Patients in similar situations should have access to the same care regardless of their financial position. This may cause a conflict between beneficence, autonomy and justice.
Autonomy: Be honest with others and keep promises.
Autonomy and Beneficence: Beneficence and the autonomy of patients may overlap and conflict.
Non-maleficence: “When harm cannot be avoided… minimize the amount of harm that we do.”5
Beneficence and non-maleficence: “Actions must produce more good than harm.” 6
Justice: Do not create unnecessary problems.
Justice: Do not waste limited resources that could be used for good.
Beneficence and justice: Support those who are not treated fairly.
Other Ethical Standards: Informed Consent, Disclosure, Confidentiality, Integrity, Honesty/Veracity, Fidelity, Respect