In todays world, the importance of ethical grounds for healthcare and medical practices has seen a great emphasis from different areas of concerns. There has emerged several interest groups that have even advocated for a standardized basic curriculum in ethics for all medical students and healthcare practitioners. Even though the idea has not been implemented in most countries, there is a notable increase in the ethics courses being offered by medical institutions of learning. Healthcare professional groups, accrediting and certification bodies and hospitals have broadly embraced and emphasized the importance of basic ethical standards and principles through their corporate core values including mission and vision statements as well as their operating procedures.
A variety of operating standards, values, and principles which are contained in various oaths and declarations are the basis for healthcare ethical practices. For many decades, physician graduates entering the medical field as new practitioners have recited many oaths and declarations requiring them to exercise ethical practices. These oaths and declarations often emphasize a variety of common ethical standards, principles or values such as justice, confidentiality, non-maleficence, respect for patient autonomy, beneficence among others.
With the current reemergence of interest in healthcare ethics from numerous interest groups, we ask ourselves what the importance of medical ethics would be and who they would benefit. This commentary will review research explaining the importance of healthcare ethics and the beneficially of ethical practices by medical practitioners. The resurgence in emphasis on values orientation and ethical practices in healthcare and the ability for stakeholders-especially patients and physicians to negotiate their demands and difference will lead to a win-win situation for all.
The health care needs are increasing in complexity each day. As a result, need to renew attention regarding ethical dimensions in healthcare decision making and development of ethical medical practices is paramount. Several professional approaches have been therefore incorporated into curriculums of medical institutions (Morrison, 2011). Learning of ethical principles, language, tools, and concepts for decisional making and other healthcare related practices helps in preparing students in this field for the inevitable and awaiting ethical decisions and choices that they will be required to make during their medical practice. Such teachings develop a critical relationship between professional practice and education.
Disease prevention, healthcare promotion, delivering healthcare and developing healthcare policies have posed complex challenges to the industry. Social stratification and gaps between the rich and the poor, technological advancement, globalization as well as the emergence of new and reemergence of infectious diseases have placed health practitioners in a dilemma. Therefore, determining what the right thing to do would be in various situations and in making the right decisions that affect the health of the general public (Morrison, 2011). The practice of healthcare needs to be grounded in ethical values and professionalism. ACHE Code of ethics and professional code of ethics are important in determining the proper practices and responses by health practitioners. Both codes of ethics support the four major principles of ethics in the healthcare sector.
Importance of ethical practices in healthcare can be explained by the following suggested reasons. Emergence and reemergence of infectious infections, a growing interest in public health and population increase and the socioeconomic have led to moral questioning of the medical process and practices in offering healthcare. Both the ethical code of the American college of healthcare executives and the association of schools of public health have suggested that professionalism gives health practitioners the ability to make ethical decisions and demonstrate ethical values and practices.
The Case of the Depressed Patient
In this case, predominant ethical issues revolve around end-of-life care, the role of healthcare practitioners and their practices, the role of patients and their families or guardians. This case presents the dilemmas that health practitioners face in their practice. The role of physicians is both rewarding and challenging at the same time. In this case, the treatment procedures are exhibiting merits and downsides. The patient also has a role in helping the physicians undertake their treatment procedures and treatment (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001). The healthcare ethical principles that were developed by Tom Beauchamp and James Childress provide guidelines to healthcare practitioners necessary for helping them make decisions when they are faced with the inevitable and complicated health situations involving their patients.
The Roles of Healthcare Practitioners, Patients, and Their Families.
Medical practitioners plan, organize and oversee all functions of the medical facilities they work in as well as other subordinates such as support staff working there. They, therefore, play important roles in ensuring that their clients receive ethical and high-quality treatment. Most people think that medical care is the responsibility of hospitals and healthcare practitioners (Aulisio, Arnold & Youngner, 2003). However, medical organizations such as OSF HealthCare define the new healthcare model to include not only health care practitioners but also patients and their families. All players, therefore, require to understand and execute their required responsibilities and roles for effective and efficient practices (Devettere, 2009). Patients and their families who are well informed of their roles and responsibilities are valuable in providing positive change in the healthcare processes and procedures. In making the right and ethical decisions physicians, patients and their families must understand their roles and responsibilities as explained in the principles of ethical practices in healthcare.
The Principles of Healthcare Ethics As Outlined In The Case of the Depressed Patient.
As used in healthcare, autonomy explains that the patient has the right to the control of his or her body. In this light, the healthcare practitioners do not have a right to coerce and persuade patients to make certain choices (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001). However, it is their responsibility to guide, inform and advise the patient on their health. Whether or not the patient decides that the practitioners do not believe in, the patients decision and choices regarding their health must be final and respected. Autonomy requires the patient to be allowed to independently and according to their values and beliefs.
This principle requires medical practitioners have a responsibility to ensure the patient benefits in whatever decision is made in all situations. The treatment options and procedures undertaken or recommended must be given with a sole intention to provide the best results to the patient (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001). This principle, therefore, requires healthcare providers to exhibit and maintain professionalism, and high knowledge and expertise having been trained in the current and best healthcare practices, and consider the circumstances of their patients individually; what can be good to a certain patient might not be of relevance to another.
This is the most common and obvious principle among the others. It simply requires the medical care providers not to harm. It should be the overall goal of any medical practitioners decisions (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001). It also requires the medical care providers consider whether their decisions will harm other people or the society at large regardless of whether the decision was made for the benefit of a single patient.
Justice as an ethical principle in healthcare requires that all medical decisions and choices have elements of fairness. Fairness issues in medical field include fairness in the distribution of resources and treatment options and methods (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001). The healthcare providers must, therefore, uphold laws and legislation when making decisions.
The four principles are applicable in the case of the depressed patient. The principles help in outlining the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder involved. The importance of these ethical practices in healthcare is to promote justice, protect the rights of the patients, avoiding harm to patients and other members of the society, avoiding malice and above all ensuring that all decisions and choices made benefit the patient. In summary, the importance in healthcare address and solve problems associated with issues such as harm prevention, health promotion and equity, fairness in treatment and disease outbreak and prevention and both public and individual liberty and good.
Aulisio, M. P., Arnold, R. M., & Youngner, S. J. (2003). Ethics consultation: From theory to practice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (2001). Principles of biomedical ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cases on Medical Ethics - Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/bioethics/resources/cases/cases-on-medical-ethics/
Devettere, R. J. (2009). Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics: Cases and Concepts. Washington: Georgetown University Press.
Morrison, E. E. (2011). Ethics in health administration: A practical approach for decision makers. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
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