The COVID-19 pandemic actualised the dilemma of how to balance physicians´ obligation to treat patients and their own perceived risk of being infected. To discuss this in a constructive way we need empirical studies of physicians´ views of this obligation.
A postal questionnaire survey was sent to a representative sample of Norwegian physicians in December 2020. We measured their perceived obligation to expose themselves to infection, when necessary, in order to provide care, concerns about being infected themselves, for spreading the virus to patients or to their families.
Our findings lead to the question if fewer physicians in the future will consider the duty to treat their top priority. This underscores the need to revisit and revitalise existing ethical codes to handle the dilemma between physicians´ duty to treat versus the duty to protect physicians and their families. This is important for the ability to provide good care for the patient and the provider in a future pandemic situation.