To establish appropriate medical professionalism in contemporary China, institutional construction, reform and development are certainly necessary. However, they must be conducted by drawing on relevant cultural ideas and values to gain support. In particular, traditional Chinese medical culture and ethics contain a great amount of intellectual and moral resources that are useful for the construction and development of contemporary Chinese medical professionalism. This essay attempts to explore such resources and make relevant recommendations.
Traditional Chinese medical culture is informed by Confucian ethical concerns and commitments. It requires that the physician must have a benevolent heart to treat the patient and a diligent mind to pursue health care knowledge. At the same time, the physician must hold reverence for life and appreciate the vital importance of human life. In addition, Confucian culture expects the physician to be fair in treating different kinds of patients and their families, and to be generous in attempting to help people. In the process of providing medical treatment, physicians’ personal integrity and an attitude for pursuing harmonious outcomes (among patient, family and physician) are emphasized. Finally, the Confucian notions of righteousness and fraternity refer to the view that physicians should engage in serious cultivation of virtue so that they may form a firm moral aspiration to help others and be honored to conduct noble actions in helping others. Accordingly, when we attempt to set up effective health care institutions and establish proper contemporary medical professionalism, these traditional values and commitments should be studied and drawn upon.
Based on these considerations, the final part of the essay puts forward four suggestions for rebuilding a proper Chinese physician profession. First, the government should provide a reasonable income and effective security for physicians, not only to supervise but also to protect their legitimate interests in providing health care services to the public. Second, pubic hospital administrators should pay attention to physicians’ personal interests and their work conditions, to provide a feasible working environment for them to treat patients effectively. Third, physicians should understand that although the external environment can never be perfect, they should discipline themselves by ensuring good professional, interpersonal and psychological standards in providing health care services to the people. Finally, physicians must recognize that as professionals, they are expected to hold proper virtues and a benevolent heart to overcome their personal difficulties, whatever they are, to treat patients and their families in virtuous and benevolent ways.