This text is intended to serve both as a broad discussion of the ethical issues inherent in the clinical practice of optometry and as a general reference for optometrists who seek guidance in dealing with ethical questions and conflicts in patient care. It is not meant to give "the answer" to the question of what actions to take in given ethical situations arising in clinical practice. Rather, it offers insights and a decision-making process that can guide the practitioner toward an appropriate course of action when facing an ethical issue in practice. The original motivation for this book came from the Ethics Education Program for Optometric Practitioners, which identified the need for a comprehensive text on the ethical issues of clinical optometry. Ethical concerns related to the business aspects of optometric practice, while important, are not within the intended scope of this text.
The material in this book was commissioned and reviewed by the American Optometric Association Ethics and Values Committee, which supports the consideration of diverse perspectives on ethical issues in clinical practice. Individuals with professional backgrounds in optometry and ethics, from both academics and private practice, have written the essays included here. Although the American Optometric Association (AOA) has sponsored this project, the individual essays reflect the opinions of their respective authors and others consulted in their preparation, and do not necessarily represent the views of the AOA.
While we have constructed this text to be an off-the-shelf reference for practicing ODs, we hope that it will also be a useful tool in the professional education of future optometrists studying in the schools and colleges of optometry. The cases presented as examples of ethical issues in clinical practice are suitable for analysis and discussion by optometric practitioners and optometry students at all levels. These cases are fictional and were written specifically for inclusion in this volume. Any similarity between the circumstances or characters described in these cases and actual events involving actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
We are aware that projects and programs of the AOA often impact the practice of optometry worldwide. This influence is both an honor and a great responsibility. Although this book addresses the practice of optometry in the United States, we hope that it will encourage optometrists in other countries to consider questions of professional behavior in their own national contexts and promote high ethical standards for the profession worldwide.
We are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the many people who have been involved in this project as it moved through its various stages. We regret that we were unable to call upon the many other individuals who also would have been capable of making significant contributions to this work. We encourage everyone who reads these essays to become actively involved in the promotion of professional values and behavior among their peers. Optometry needs its members to speak out on ethical issues in a collegial and supportive way to guide the profession through its second century. Contemplation of the professional values and obligations addressed in this book should strengthen optometrists' collective resolve to maintain the highest ethical standards for the benefit of all patients.
We hope that you enjoy reading this book as much as the editors and members of the Ethics and Values Committee enjoyed taking part in its development. Because both the fields of optometry and ethics continue to develop, no book on optometric ethics can be definitive. If you believe that specific topics should be added or expanded to enhance the value of the text, please forward your suggestions to the editors in care of the AOA. All such comments will be considered for possible future revisions.