AbstractThe current trend towards ethical scrutiny and oversight is very much a social trend. Many of the results of this trend are perfectly reasonable but some go harmfully too far. In this paper, caution is advocated about public attitudes and social trends. Although there is often a degree of truth in them, there is an inevitable simplification of the issues involved. The more specific danger for the professions is to think that public attitudes and social trends simply deliver ‘the ethical’. In this context a more adequate account of ethics is considered—one that is relevant for professions like radiology confronting the demands of ethical scrutiny and oversight. The paper concludes with some suggestions about how to incorporate the important aspects of public attitudes and social trends without being subservient to them.