• What We Are Writing - Practical Ethics in Ophthalmology: A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Ethics in the Surgical and Medical Practice of Ophthalmology By Thomas S. Harbin, MD, MBA

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    In 2009, Dr. Harbin published “Waking Up Blind: Lawsuits Over Eye Surgery,” which immediately established him in our profession as a premier writer of nonscientific medical literature, as well as a leader in the field of medical ethics.

    Dr. Harbin followed that success with two well-received books: “The Business Side of Medicine: What Medical Schools Don’t Teach You,” and, with M. Duffy Jones, DVM, “The Business Side of Veterinary Medicine: What Veterinary Schools Don’t Teach You.” Now Dr. Harbin has returned to his zeal for medical ethics with his latest contribution to our profession, “Practical Ethics in Ophthalmology: A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Ethics in the Surgical and Medical Practice of Ophthalmology.”

    As Dr. Harbin notes in his prologue, all ophthalmologists believe they conduct ethical practices and agree that this should be a fundamental goal of our profession. And yet, with the way that the business of medicine is changing, even those with the best intentions are at risk of ethical slips that they may never recognize. Dr. Harbin does a great service to our profession by clarifying these potential pitfalls, telling us how to watch for them and how to avoid them.

    Dr. Harbin breaks his book down into logical sections, with easy-to-read and understand examples of the ethical challenges that lurk in every aspect of the ophthalmic practice. For example, in Part I, Practice Activities, he considers ethical issues related to prescribing medications, performing surgery and introducing new devices and procedures. In other sections, he addresses the physician’s relationship with industry, the academician’s quest for ethical research and publishing, personal behavior, as with substance abuse, and much more.

    The book has already received praise from many of the leaders in our profession. Dr. George Bartley stated that, “Dr. Harbin has done a service by reminding us to keep the welfare of the patient preeminent at all times.” Dr. Ruth Williams correctly notes, “Dr. Harbin translates the lofty ideals of ethics into the everyday practice of ophthalmology.” Dr. Paul Lichter observes that, “In his matter-of-fact and easy-to-read writing style, Dr. Harbin draws on his extensive experience with ethical issues in medicine and ophthalmology.”  And Dr. Susan Day makes the cogent point that, “Practical Ethics in Ophthalmology” is a highly pragmatic view of the importance of ethical behavior by physicians: good ethics makes good business.”

    I fully agree with each of my colleagues and strongly believe that Dr. Harbin’s book should be required reading for every ophthalmology resident (and probably every medical student) and one with which every physician should be familiar.

    Editor’s note: If you have written a book or know of a colleague who has, let us know so we can share it with our readers. Send your recommendation to scope@aao.org