Ethical Obligations Regarding Short-Term Global Health Clinical Experiences: An American College of Physicians Position Paper

Ann Intern Med. 2018 May 1;168(9):651-657. doi: 10.7326/M17-3361. Epub 2018 Mar 27.


This American College of Physicians position paper aims to inform ethical decision making surrounding participation in short-term global health clinical care experiences. Although the positions are primarily intended for practicing physicians, they may apply to other health care professionals and should inform how institutions, organizations, and others structure short-term global health experiences. The primary goal of short-term global health clinical care experiences is to improve the health and well-being of the individuals and communities where they occur. In addition, potential benefits for participants in global health include increased awareness of global health issues, new medical knowledge, enhanced physical diagnosis skills when practicing in low-technology settings, improved language skills, enhanced cultural sensitivity, a greater capacity for clinical problem solving, and an improved sense of self-satisfaction or professional satisfaction. However, these activities involve several ethical challenges. Addressing these challenges is critical to protecting patient welfare in all geographic locales, promoting fair and equitable care globally, and maintaining trust in the profession. This paper describes 5 core positions that focus on ethics and the clinical care context and provides case scenarios to illustrate them.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Clinical Decision-Making / ethics*
  • Culturally Competent Care / ethics
  • Delivery of Health Care / ethics*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Global Health / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Professionalism