Ethical issues

Confidentiality

To be preserved within limits of good practice. Betraying confidences may occur in general conversation but more likely when talking to the mentee’s partner. Remembering what was said in confidence by the mentee and what has been learnt from other sources can be difficult. It is quite easy to breach confidence in a general discussion and this can lead to serious problems.

Conflict of Interest

What does a mentor do if he finds his mentee doing or suggesting an action which directly affects the mentor? Theoretically the mentor should declare his interest and this should be made clear during any training programme. Possible results of not being honest should be discussed to help potential mentors cope with this unusual situation. Mentors may find others trying to influence them for their own ends or discover areas where a mentees welfare clashes with their own. Conflicts of interest should they arise need to be acknowledged and mentees or the support group’s help enlisted to ensure advantage is not taken.

Personality clashes and sexual attraction can and will occur when larger numbers of mentors are working. Where mentors have been appointed both they and the mentee must have the right to withdraw should such problems arise. The misuse of their profession by any doctor renders them likely to disciplinary action by the General Medical Council and the development of any sexual relationship between appointed mentor and mentee would come under that heading.

Power

“Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est,” (Knowledge itself is power). By its very nature mentoring gives the mentor considerable knowledge about his mentees and possibly also about the mentees of the other support group mentors. This is similar to the knowledge a GP learns from his patients. If a mentor misused this power then as above it could lead to disciplinary action and dismissal not only from mentoring but from the medical register.

Letting the mentee down

After a relationship has been established the mentee may expect more from the mentor than he/she is able or prepared to give. At a time of crisis the mentor may not be available. In various ways we can let down or appear to let down those with whom we have a relationship. We must not encourage false expectations.

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