Professional Ethics

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Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (LRC)
A defining characteristic of a profession is that it is self-governing and independent of direct daily government regulation. In general, each professional worker is autonomous and free to accept any work and any client, or to turn down any work or client. However, professional ethics usually restrict this choice when the prospective client is desperate for the professional services and turning the client down would leave him or her without practical help. After agreeing to serve the client, the professional cannot terminate the relationship and abandon the client at a vulnerable stage. If a professional is going to terminate services in midstream, he or she should endeavour to assist the client to find another professional to carry on. A professional may have an ethical duty to render services to a client or patient, and not abandon that person, even without payment. Provincial legislation that organizes professions also creates, delegates, and vests each self-governing body with considerable power to regulate the profession. These bodies are composed, primarily, of senior and respected active members of the profession, who are elected every few years by the total membership to manage the profession (hence "self-governing"). Often there are a few laypersons on these regulatory bodies, which are variously known by the terms "society" (as in Law Society), "board" or "college" (as in the College of Physicians and Surgeons). These bodies are divided into a number of committees to manage various functions such as administration, education and admission, ethics, insurance, and public relations. All have a discipline committee. A client or a third party who believes that a professional has violated the code will find it easy to complain to the governing body. There is no cost or risk to the complainant to bring a concern to the governing body. In addition to child welfare, professionals must report other forms of misconduct. Lawyers must keep their client information strictly confidential, but Canadian law societies have long prescribed special circumstances under which the disclosure of confidential client information to external authorities is permitted and even required. For example, professional codes of conduct contain rules that permit lawyers to disclose confidential client information where they have reasonable grounds for believing that a crime is likely to be committed in the future. This reporting becomes a mandatory requirement, under provincial or federal statutes, when the lawyer suspects that the crime involves violence or "there is an imminent risk to an identifiable person or group of death or serious bodily harm."
Article deposited after permission was granted by the editor of LawNow Magazine, 06/28/2010.
Professionalism, Behavior, Professionals, Professional ethics, Regulatory agencies, Licenses, Whistleblowing
Bowal, Peter, Lau, Benjamin, "Professional Ethics", Law Now, Feb/Mar 2005, Vol. 29, Iss. 4; pg. 18.