Today, ethical and legal issues are key characteristics of almost every profession. In particular, the intensity and nature of the ethical issues are higher in the healthcare sector, where the professionals are dealing with human life. Despite adequate training on laws and ethics governing the healthcare field, these professionals still encounter major challenges in making the most appropriate situation when faced with a medical ethical or legal dilemma. Further, today’s ethical situations are of a more complex nature than those witnessed by the healthcare givers in the past. Additionally, the increasing awareness of the patients’ legal rights during treatment often conflicts with the healthcare moral standards and ethical requirements.
Due to the complex nature of ethical dilemmas, it can be hard for a healthcare practitioner to make the right moral decision. Healthcare professionals have a huge responsibility of understanding, interpreting, and making appropriate decisions in regard to the diverse ethical dilemmas that arise during their practice (Ellis, 2020). The ethical principles such as duty of care and confidentiality, beneficence and non-maleficence, and the laws such as the right to autonomy may conflict. It is the role of the caregiver to analyze the risks and benefits of each decision. It is critical for the caregiver caught in an ethical dilemma such as this to assess the current situation of the patient in making the decision. This is integral as it helps the caregiver to put into consideration the best course of action in dealing with the ethical dilemma.
Nurses and social workers engage in interpersonal communication when they promote their research and practice. The communication landscape is changing. It is characterized by an increase in technology and enhanced attention to cases of mental illnesses. However, these activities are likely to pose ethical challenges (Ellis, 2020). For nurses, working in collaboration with other health officials such as social workers poses communication challenges that lead to ethical concerns. Professional communities should consider establishing specific guidance for nurses’ communication activities. More research should be undertaken to enhance the extent to which nurses face ethical challenges through communication.
An example of an ethical issue often faced is communication difficulties in multicultural teams. Primarily, the hierarchy and work structure do not encourage communication among individual nurses and teams. There has been a significant international focus on improving the quality, and patient safety, culturally sensitive communication among teams remains one of the significant ethical challenges in healthcare. Nurses must understand the concept of culturally sensitive communication to enhance effective healthcare delivery (NMC, 2019). The concept does not only apply to interpersonal communication among the healthcare members, but it also extends to the patients and their families. Observing cultural differences during communication not only makes team members more positive towards health delivery but also enhances understanding between the patient and the medical team.
In order to solve the issue better and make the best ethical, legal and moral decision, the caregiver should comprehensively analyze the ethical theories, the nurse’s code of ethics statement, the ethical principles, and linked literature. Additionally, after making the decision, the healthcare giver should initiate the most effective response to handle the situation. The caregiver can collaborate with other specialists such as social workers, psychologists, and physicians in order to provide a comprehensive care plan for the patient.
Ethical principles should also be applied to guide the decision-making process. There are different ethical principles that govern medical practice. Beneficence and non-maleficence are some of the many fundamental ethical principles. Beneficence, as earlier mentioned, is an act of kindness, mercy, and charity with a strong link to doing well to others. The caregivers have a moral obligation to do right by favoring the well-being of the patient by upholding high standards of care. In this manner, the caregivers calculate the benefits of a given treatment in comparison to its risks. On the other hand, non-maleficence means mitigating any harm, and in this case, the risks should not outweigh the treatment benefits (NMC, 2019). In regards to the children and adolescents, the beneficence and non-maleficence principle may be beneficial in encouraging them to disclose critical clinical information that can be used to act accordingly. Besides, preserving confidentially could improve the clinician and the patient therapeutic relationship enhancing the benefits of treatment versus the risks.
Additionally, healthcare givers need to think beyond the current situation and apply ethical principles universally. For instance, if the children and the adolescents lack faith in the healthcare services’ confidentiality, it could mean keeping sensitive information hidden or, in worse scenarios, hinder this group of people from seeking the services in the first place. Consequently, the General Medical Council (GMC) guides the clinicians to consider the “wider principle of society’s interest in maintaining trust between the doctors and the patients” when deliberating on an individual case (GMC, 2019). On the contrary, clinicians can apply a different universal principle that supports breaching confidentiality where the information is shared freely among the healthcare givers, the family members, and the society, which may assist in deterring abusive individuals.
Moral philosophy comprises two different strains that dominate the ethical landscape. Kant’s deontological ethics proposal contends that judging the morality of a given action, whether it is wrong or right, should be on the basis of a broad system of rights, rules, and undertaking one’s duty (Searight, 2019). On the contrary, consequentialist ethics, for example, Bentham and Mill utilitarianism, contend that judging the morality of an action should be solely on the basis of “all the good and all the harm that consequentially arises” (Searight, 2019, p.23). Consequently, this utilitarianism consequentialist theory can be used to guide the clinician in regards to the issues of confidentiality and determining the most appropriate moral decision. According to this theory, good action is that which intensifies pleasure and reduces pain to the majority of people. In this regard, the utility principle forms the key framework of ethics principles. In regards to the utility principle, the moral right action is that which creates the best outcomes for the greatest number of people.
Todays, ethical dilemmas in the healthcare industry are more complex than they were many years back. Consequently, healthcare professionals have a huge responsibility of understanding, interpreting, and making appropriate decisions in regard to the diverse ethical dilemmas that arise during their practice. Healthcare is a highly sensitive practice, and to be successful, nurses have to master the legal, professional, and ethical guidelines that underpin nursing practice, along with how they can be applied to real-life situations. The role of the caregiver is to analyze the risks and benefits of each decision and ensure that ethical principles such as duty of care and confidentiality, beneficence, and non-maleficence are followed.
Ellis, P. (2020). Understanding ethics for nursing students. Sage.
GMC (2019). Ethical and Legal duties of confidentiality.
Searight, H.R., (2019). Ethical theories applied to end-of-life medical care. In Ethical Challenges in Multi-Cultural Patient Care (pp. 15-27). Springer, Cham.