HLT-520: Legal and Ethical Principles in Health Care course focuses on the recognition, analysis, and resolution of ethical dilemmas in health occupations. Students examine legal liabilities involved in health care administration, including workplace safety and a health care facility’s obligation to provide protection from injury for patients, their families, and staff.
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What is medical ethics?
Medical ethics is an applied branch of ethics that analyzes the practice of clinical medicine and related scientific research. It based on a set of values that professionals can refer to in the case of any confusion or conflict.
The health care sector is a dynamic environment. Therefore, the four principles of health care ethics were developed to support professionals as they navigate patient care. These principles include:
- Non-maleficence, and
The Principle of Autonomy
Autonomy is the control that you exercise when making individual decisions, especially regarding your well-being. In health care, autonomy is the right or freedom of the patient to maintain control of their body before and after treatment. Most importantly, the practice of autonomy prevents health care professionals from potentially coercing or persuading the patient to take a specific action or treatment plan that might not be in their best interest. Thus, autonomy aims to improve patient welfare by allowing the patient to be in full command of their treatment and care as much and as often as possible.
This principle of autonomy is crucial in the delivery of evidence-based care. This is mainly because every individual has different beliefs and experiences that shape their opinions on a variety of topics, and the health care profession is no different. Since not all medical professionals agree with certain treatment options and medication processes, this principle addresses the clause of the best treatment option that the health care provider made independently. Health care professionals like nurses should not try to influence a patient’s decision based on that nurse’s own personal beliefs. However, it’s their responsibility to ensure that patients are educated and informed, so they can make the best decision for themselves. Patients and medical providers will often have contrasting beliefs, customs, and ideas. Therefore, it is the health care professional’s responsibility to help empower each patient to take control of their own health care.
The Principle of beneficence
Beneficence is the act of showing kindness or mercy. Most importantly, all the actions of any health care provider should always bring positivity. Thus, this principle acts as an obligation for nurses to protect their patients from harm by removing and preventing bad situations and promoting good ones. Additionally, this principle also encourages health care workers to intentionally invest the time and effort to make sure that each patient benefits in each situation.
Before acting, the caregiver has to learn and consider each patient’s specific wants, needs, and experiences. This is because this principle often lies in defining what good means to each patient, which may be difficult to find out. Thus, the caregiver should be aware of a patient’s culture, religious beliefs, past experiences, and likes or dislikes because they will help guide the medical provider in determining what might be good for them.
The Principle of non-maleficence
Non-maleficence means that the health care professional must do no harm. Therefore, health care workers should carefully evaluate each situation before making decisions. They should keep in mind that some decisions can cause harm to patients, the community, or even other health care workers, and it’s up to each health care professional to be aware of how each of their decisions can impact others. This is why it is important for caregivers to possess critical thinking and decision-making skills.
The Principle of justice
The Justice principle states that there should be fairness in all medical decisions. Therefore, health care workers should listen to each patient’s interests before beginning medical procedures. However, justice does not only apply to patients. It also impacts health care providers. All physicians, nurses, and other health experts have a right to practice their profession in a pleasant environment.