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Professional exposure to carcinogenic substances: is occupational physicians’ activity compatible with medical ethics and deontology?
  1. Bénédicte Clin1,2,
  2. Marc Letourneux1,
  3. Guy Launoy2
  1. 1
    Occupational Health Department, Caen University Hospital, Caen, France
  2. 2
    Cancers and Populations, ERI3 INSERM, Faculty of Medicine, Caen University Hospital, Caen, France
  1. Dr Bénédicte Clin, Service de Médecine du Travail et Pathologie Professionnelle (Occupational Health Department), C.H.U. (University Hospital) Côte de Nacre, 14033 CAEN Cedex, France; clin-b{at}

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The aim of occupational health practice is to protect and promote workers’ health, to sustain and improve their working capacity and ability, to contribute to the establishment and maintenance of a safe and healthy working environment for all, as well as to promote the adaptation of work to the capabilities of workers, taking into account their state of health.1

This first principle of the International Code of Ethics for Occupational Health Professionals, adopted by the International Commission for Occupational Health in March 2002, positions the occupational physician as a “protector” of personnel health. This role, in accordance with several codes of ethics applicable in a number of different countries,27 has already been defined as such since 1950 by the ILO and WHO, updated by the ILO/WHO Joint Committee on Occupational Health in 1995:

Occupational health should aim at: the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions.8

However, one is forced to accept that this task is not …

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • i Decree no 2001–97 dated 1 February 2001, establishing specific rules with regard to the prevention of carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic risks and modifying the French Labor Code (French Official Journal no 29 dated 02/03/01)

  • ii Decree no 77–949 dated 17 August 1977 (French Official Journal dated 08/20/1977)