Whistle blowing

This is very controversial and can be considered disloyalty and “ratting on” others, or as the honourable thing to do, based humanitarian motives. It can be internal, to higher authority in the organisation or external to an outside organisation/authority. It can be open or anonymous. These are the most difficult decisions, due to the conflicting loyalties to colleagues and/or employers, duties to patients and/or public and ones own rights. It has been suggested that whistle blowing is justified if serious harm to the public is at stake, concerns are reported to a superior or all other avenues have been exhausted. Furthermore, there should be documented evidence of wrongdoing and a solution of the problem should result. All of these are stringent conditions. Others have suggested that one ensures facts, documentation and seriousness; examines ones own motives; state facts clearly; determine who best to alert (internal/external; open/anonymous); consult lawyer; and expect retaliation! What is the value of legal protection?

A recent situation has arisen in the South African medical context, where a junior doctor reported on the level of harassment she was experiencing while working in hospital.

“Medicine in particular is very old school and it’s this strange old boys club that prepares us to have this inflated sense of self. I think the internship is like this initiation where they treat you badly so that you’re ready to take on a new position in the hierarchy afterwards,” she said.

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