Ethical issues in healthcare are a branch of applied ethics concerned with the principle of decision-making that the healthcare staff must apply when making medical decisions. Ethical views in healthcare vary based on the country and cultural background.
Ethical standards fall under the umbrella of medical ethics and are very necessary for a healthcare environment. The branch of applied ethics is more concerned about the moral choices professionals make regarding medical policies and practices.
In this article, we will take you through the principles of ethics in healthcare examples, give you the difference between legal and ethical issues, and state the top ethical issues in healthcare. We also have a team of experts ready to offer assignment help on ethical issues in health care online to students from different academic levels. Connect with us via our customer support team for assistance.
Principles of Ethics in Healthcare
The principles of ethics in healthcare help the healthcare staff to know how to identify and find solutions for ethical dilemmas they face during their practice. This can be done by conversing with the patient to understand their desires and needs. The four main principles of ethics in healthcare include
The principal autonomy is essential because it helps to ensure that the patient can actively get involved in making decisions concerning their care, support, or treatment. Ethical issue in autonomy arises when medical staff or relatives of the patient try to influence or act on behalf of the patient without their consent.
The principle of autonomy does not extend to persons incapable of acting autonomously. These include mentally and physically incapacitated persons, detainees, infants, and children.
Respecting the principle of autonomy requires the medical care provider to disclose medical information and treatment options necessary for the patient to exercise self-determination.
Beneficence refers to individual qualities like charity, mercy, generosity, and kindness. It represents love, altruism, humanity, and seeking what’s best for others. Assessing patients’ best interests is one of the things that medical professionals should do when providing healthcare.
The principle of justice states that there should be appropriate, equitable, and fair treatment of patients. Healthcare resource distribution should be equally distributed depending on people’s needs, contributions, or merits. Ethical issues in health care arise when the staff fails to attend to patients based on ethnicity, race, economic status, or sexual orientation.
Nonmaleficence is the duty of a healthcare provider not to harm the patient. This principle supports moral rules like do not cause harm or pain, do not incapacitate, do not kill, do not deny someone the joy of life, or cause an offence. Nonmaleficence is applied when physicians must weigh the disadvantages and advantages of all treatments and interventions.
Ethical issues in healthcare arise when physicians fail to go for methods that cause less pain and suffering to the patients. For instance, failure to use pain-relieving drugs such as opioids to treat acute pain in the immediate postoperative period. An ethical dilemma arises during the end-of-life situations where the caregivers must choose between withdrawing life-supporting machines or withholding them.
Top Ethical Issues in Healthcare
Ethical issues revolve around patient-doctor interactions, informed consent, and confidentiality. Here are a few of the top ethical issues in healthcare.
Doctor and patient confidentiality
A private connection between patients and doctors is paramount. It helps create trust between the two parties, allowing patients to share their personal feelings and secret medical history. That enables the doctor to ascertain what the patient may suffer and establish a diagnosis.
The doctor is supposed to protect the privacy and secure the patient’s information and records. Ethical issues in healthcare arise when these records land on other people who are restricted from accessing them. Withholding medical information about the victim’s status is also considered an ethical issue in the healthcare nursing system.
The patient has the right to fully understand and agree to any medical diagnosis or procedure they undergo before it proceeds. Informed consent is a detailed comprehension of the benefits of a diagnosis and the risks involved.
The healthcare provider should explain to the patient their condition, treatment plan, benefits and risks, alternative plan, and what happens if no action is taken. After that, they should give the patient time to decide on the treatment option they want.
Ethical issues arise when the physician fails to provide enough information to the patient, fails to facilitate understanding, or coerces the patient to make decisions that they are second-guessing. Failure to provide a form signed by a patient to confirm informed consent may also be an ethical issue in healthcare.
Access to Care
Every person should be able to afford healthcare services with or without medical coverage. One of the current issues in healthcare is the cost of healthcare services. Many patients face a challenge accessing affordable healthcare services, especially low-income earners who cannot afford insurance and other medical covers.
Shortage of healthcare staff is another ethical issue facing healthcare. Patients are forced to spend a lot of time in queues while waiting for the few medical staff to serve them. Sometimes these caregivers are forced to work for longer hours. This could easily lead to negligence during service delivery.
Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide
Euthanasia is described as intentionally ending a patient’s life to get rid of the suffering. Patient Assisted Suicide is providing medication to a competent patient to help them end their life. The patient will self-administer the medication.
Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide are termed ethical issues in healthcare. That is because once legalized, physicians might end the suffering of patients but do not wish for their lives to be ended. It also violates the principle of beneficence even though the patient may request death.
Malpractice and Negligence
Malpractice implies medical liability or faults identified frequently resulting from one or more unjustified errors. Negligence refers to having knowledge and failing to apply it in terms of being attentive and taking precautions, causing damage. Malpractice and negligence are ethical issues in healthcare that can easily lead to serious health complications.
The high-risk nature of the healthcare environment can increase the chances of malpractice. Healthcare professionals must cover the essential responsibilities of patient care to avoid litigation. Hospital negligence can be caused by delayed treatment, misdiagnosis, or defective medical equipment.
Ethical and Legal issues in healthcare
As the healthcare system evolves, healthcare staff, patients, and families are facing ethical and legal decisions about medical practices, treatments, and hospital management, among other issues arising in the healthcare system.
The healthcare system is governed by ethical standards, laws, rules, and regulations. The laws are set in place to set out the medical staff’s responsibilities and to protect the patients when making decisions about the kind of care they want to receive in healthcare facilities.
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Ethical standards do not necessarily have to be formed on legal grounds. They are based on human principles of right and wrong. The government sets legal standards to help patients know what they are not permitted to do. Breaking a legal standard is punishable by law because they are regulated. Ethical standards are unregulated.
Examples of legal issues in healthcare include;
Healthcare system malpractice and tort reform
The government put tort reforms in place to help decrease worldwide malpractice and negligent risks. They also help reduce the general healthcare cost and the expenditure on unnecessary healthcare services.
False claims and whistle-blower suits
This helps detect healthcare abuse and fraud caused by dishonest healthcare providers, suppliers of medical staff, and physicians. These suits’ main role is to protect the government from healthcare fraud and fight against it. Hence, helping the government recover money that was paid due to fraudulent claims.
Antitrust issues and ACOs
Accountable Care Organizations comprise healthcare providers, hospitals, and doctors who come together to provide high-quality healthcare to patients. This they achieve by reducing medical costs and increasing the quality of the medical services.
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