What Is a Code of Ethics?

A code of ethics is the guideline that sets acceptable behaviors for a given group of people or profession. For example, physicians typically adhere to a code of ethics. A code of ethics can also be defined as a set of guidelines to which an individual holds himself.

The first principle of the medical code of ethics is that a physician must be dedicated to providing competent medical care and must do so with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights. Many professions and groups have these types of ethical codes. Attorneys have a very strict code of ethics that covers client confidentiality, representing people with diminished capacity and conflict of interest. Even personal trainers and financial advisers follow codes of ethics.