American College of Physicians (ACP) had advised new position for Physicians, participating in short-term global health experiences as a volunteer in medical trips have ethical obligations to the communities they serve, in Annals of Internal Medicine.

"The primary goal of a short-term experience in global health is to improve the health and well-being of the individuals and communities where they occur," said ACP President Dr. Jack Ende, MD, MACP. "This paper mostly addresses practicing physicians, but it also applies to other  healthcare professionals  and students."

Potential benefits for clinicians and learners who participate in voluntary medical trips could include increased awareness of global health issues, new medical knowledge, enhanced physical diagnosis and clinical problem-solving skills when practicing in low technology settings, and enhanced professional satisfaction and learning experiences.

However, ethical challenges could also be raised, including issues such as respecting different cultural norms, avoiding potential unintended harms, protecting privacy, working within one's scope of practice or educational level, and managing limited resources.

Global health experiences refer to circumstances when physicians at different levels of training or medical students from high-income countries travel to lower-middle-income countries for the care of vulnerable populations in underserved settings.

ACP advised that to fulfill the primary ethical obligation of a short-term experience in global health to improve health and well-being, physicians should advocate for sustainable, mutual benefit; a fair and equitable distribution of resources; and partnerships that respect the individuals and communities served.

The ethical principle of justice requires partnering with local leaders to ensure that the potential burdens participants could place on local communities were minimized and prepared for limited material resources.

Individuals who participate in short-term global health experiences must be sensitive to and respectful of cultural differences. Pre-departure preparation should incorporate preparation for logistical and ethical aspects of a short-term experience in global health, including the potential for ethical challenges and moral distress.

"By fulfilling these responsibilities and participating with organizations whose short-term global health experiences are consistent with ethics and professionalism as exemplified in ACP's positions, physicians can help maintain trust in the medical profession, protect patient well-being, and improve health equity at home and abroad, "Dr. Ende said.