From the time of Hippocrates, ethics have run deep in medical care. Knowledge, skill, and education may be what allow the practice of medicine to thrive and evolve, but without a strong foundation in ethics, none of it takes hold. And while the medical industry continues to grow and present new ethical challenges for clinicians, one thing that has never changed is our responsibility to patients. In fact, few would argue that the relationship between the clinician and the patient remains the heart of medical practice.

As clinicians in aesthetic medicine, we are faced with scenarios on a daily basis that force us to ask questions about our own ethics. Sometimes these situations concern our preparedness or willingness to tell a patient that s/he would do better with another procedure or physician, or perhaps with no treatment at all. Other times, it involves how we run our practices and brand ourselves, such determining the line between suggesting procedures to patients versus pushing them. Then there is the broader picture of our relationship to industry, specifically how we work with companies as a physician KOL. Academic meetings require industry disclosures, but what about our patients? Do they deserve disclosures?

We can philosophize about what it means to be ethical in our field, but it's often the everyday scenarios where ethics come into play in a more significant way. We make those calls day-in and day-out. Sometimes, the right call is the easy call. But if we allow ourselves to think this is always the case, we put ourselves at risk for missing the nuances of what we do, ethically as well as clinically.

This issue of Modern Aesthetics takes on a variety of ethical issues in aesthetic medicine, from how to “police” colleagues, to how to adjust to changing regulatory and consumer pressures. The articles herein do not offer easy answers, but they compel us to think about our daily trade and ethical balances in new ways.

In the end, while there are certainly some ethical standards by which we must all abide, the daily choices we make are built of unique circumstances such that only we can address. And the most important aspect of making those choices is being engaged in reflexive inquiry about what it means to be a clinician. Aesthetic medicine may be distinct from other medical specialties and present different sets of ethical challenges, but ultimately the goal remains the same, and that is to help our patients. What that means to you is something you must decide.