Introduction

The medical field is very sensitive given its mandate of pre-empting death, treating as well as alleviating the suffering undergone by patients. The medical personnel are obliged to provide timely and correct assistance to the ailing people so as to save life as well as ameliorate pain. However, there is a need to consider some ethical issues so as to maintain the dignity of the ill people as well as safeguarding their personal rights. Some medical procedures need to be executed only if the patient agrees and in a way that does not seem to be offensive or dehumanizing. Using a human being as a specimen for experimental purposes is also unacceptable and against the right to life. However, despite the call for medics to adhere to their work ethics, question arises as to whether they have a right to air their grievances by boycotting work or picketing and whether the impact of such actions justifies that. Medical ethics is necessary for protecting patients from unjust deeds, harassment as well as poor healthcare.

Background

Ethical issues refer to a set of moral principles that entails application of values and judgment in the field of medicine so as to offer quality health care in accordance with the desired result. Ethics applies in the medical field just like any other field of profession, and this mainly entails the rights of patients. An ailment causes pain and suffering and in extreme cases, it incapacitates an individual, hence, making him/her vulnerable, therefore, calling for good medical care as well as protection from harm. In the world, many ailing persons have been mistreated through being denied proper medical care, being discriminated against, being molested as well as being given wrong treatment as a result of recklessness hence, resulting to deterioration of the health condition as well as death in extreme cases. Medical practitioners, especially in third world countries, have also been accused of not attending to their duties hence, leaving patients to suffer on their beds without professional assistance. Unscrupulous health personnel have also gone to the extent of using patients as specimen for conducting experiments hence putting their lives at risk.

The issue of medical ethics as well as the legal concepts are important so as to ensure that patients are accorded prompt assistance which is correct as well as safeguarding their rights in respect to timely assistance, the privacy of medical information and the right to choose what kind of medication they want and the right of not being harassed or molested. This research analyzes the ethical principles of medication as well as some of the regulations governing the medical field. If steps are not taken to safeguard the principles of medication, more deaths will occur as a result of negligence by the medical teams and poor quality healthcare as well as discrimination against patients from various groups of the American population.

The researcher was inspired by the sensitivity of health issues and the fact that health is a universal problem that affects all classes of people regardless whether they are rich or poor. There have been numerous complaints globally by patients as well as families of the victims due to deaths blamed on negligence as well as disfigurations and disablement resulting from improper medication. The topic was therefore chosen so as to unearth the principles of medical work as well as legal concepts that are put in place to safeguard patients as well as assessing the extent to which the measures are being implemented.

Ethical Theories of Health Care

Ethical Relativism

The theory argues that there is no pure truth that is agreed upon by all people and in all situations and that on the contrary, the truth varies in different cultures as well as context. This implies that medical personnel must judge the context of their decisions before deciding on how to handle or treat their clientele. For example, before the doctor decides to amputate a patient's leg, he/she must examine why the amputation is necessary and despite the fact that the medical procedure might not be pleasing for other people, it may be morally right according to the medical condition of the affected person.

Feminist Theory

The theorists tend to agree with ethical relativism in that it does not agree with the notion of an overall consensus. The theory advocates for assessment of the context so as to come up with the best conclusion. The theorists seek to examine how a decision will affect the concerned people. For instance, if a doctor decides to conduct surgery on a patient to remove a growth, he/she has to consider how the operation will affect the person or the kinsmen.

Deontological Theory

The theory argues that an action is morally determined by how the said action conforms to the norms or rules in place as opposed to the consequence of the deed. The main concern of the theory is whether an action is right or wrong. Medical practitioners should therefore, handle their clientele as prescribed by the laws that govern the field of medicine. For instance, a doctor or nurse should not conduct a medical procedure that is prohibited by the law.

Utilitarianism

The theory advocates for acts that are beneficial to many people and therefore calls for what causes more benefit to many people. The medical practitioners should execute their medical practice in a way that will save as many lives as possible as opposed to a partisan approach aimed at providing preferential treatment to an individual.

 

Ethical Principles of Health Care

Non-maleficence

It is the duty of health care organizations to put in place good work procedures and protocols to ensure that the medical team does not execute duties with negligence. A lot of care should be taken to ensure that no or minimal harm is inflicted on the patients. The doctors should avoid unapproved tests and experiments that may deteriorate the condition of the patient. Patients should always be notified of the risks of the medical procedures like surgery and injections among others. Apart from that, the use of drugs with adverse effects should be avoided. It is the duty of medical professionals to minimize pain and to ensure that the patient’s life is not put at risk of death. It is the right of the patients to get proper medication, therefore, the health care institutions should safeguard their clientele from fraud, inconveniences and unnecessary expenditure. Offending, disfiguring or disabling a sick person in the process of treatment should be avoided and should be done if only the good outcome of harm is greater than the harm. For instance, if removing a woman’s womb will save her life, then, making her infertile is justified as opposed to retaining her womb and risking her life. Medical procedures should involve the least pain and suffering and this calls for very careful manner of executing therapies or treatment.

Autonomy

The Patient Self Determination Act was enacted in 1990 by the U.S. Congress and it was meant to safeguard the patient’s right to make own decisions in respect to the treatment offered. Medical professionals are supposed to allow people to make their own choice of treatment and have to further respect their decisions. The ability of the patients to make own decisions without coercion especially by family and friends should be considered and if the former is deemed incompetent, an attorney can be involved as stipulated by the Self Determination Act. The medical teams are obligated to educate patients to make their own choices and also support them in their self-made decisions. This principle is aimed at arriving at an informed consent.

Beneficence

This entails being merciful to patients and acting promptly to alleviate their suffering. Medical personnel are bound by their Hippocratic Oath to be willing to assist and to act on behalf of the sick to protect them. The personnel are deemed to have been inspired by the need to help other people than by the financial gains in their career and therefore they are expected to be kind and should offer assistance to the disadvantaged people, and especially to the disabled. The main goal here is to benefit the patient while considering that the benefit is defined by the latter as opposed to the medical team. The patients are therefore supposed to be attended to as soon as they arrive at the hospital so as to ease their suffering. Nurses should also carryout only medical procedures that are beneficial to the patients and this is aimed at promoting quick recovery.

Paternalism

The medical team is supposed to treat patients like children and should therefore assume parental role. The professionals are deemed to have full knowledge of medical conditions and the necessary treatment and should therefore make the best decisions concerning diagnosis and treatment of the ailment in question. Medical teams have power over the patients and the latter are in the hands of the former and therefore doctors are obliged to take full responsibility over patients. If the doctor feels that revealing a medical condition to an ailing person will have extremely traumatizing effect, he/she has a right to keep it a secret until it is safe to reveal it without causing harm. For instance, after listening to the sick person or making observations to establish the symptoms, the doctor should know what test needs to be done on the person and after ascertaining the ailment, the best medication should also be decided by the doctor as opposed to the victim even though the patient’s will should be taken into consideration. In the hospital setting, the medical team has power over the patient and therefore, the team has a greater and a more important role as compared to the family and friends of the sick person. In this context, the team therefore, becomes the foster parents to the sick person because it is only these personnel that can cater for the needs of the victim.

Justice

Justice entails discriminating the patients on the basis of their needs as opposed to relationship or affiliation. All ailing people have equal rights and therefore, each one of them should be given what he/she deserves as per the respective medical needs. The principle is against partisan approach by the medical teams or any act that seems to favor a particular patient while disadvantaging others.  The professionals should be fair in their duties and distributive justice should be observed whereby the scarce medical resources are equally shared and distributed to all patients or distributed as per the specific medical condition of every ailing person. More attention should be given to the severely sick people as opposed to those whose conditions are not very serious. For instance a patient who is admitted in the Intensive Care Unit in an unconscious state deserves more care and time, as well as medication as opposed to a person in the regular ward. This principle discourages the medical team from receiving gratuities or any other thing that may be offered by the patient or his/her family in order to be given preferential treatment in return.

Fidelity

The medical personnel should exercise trustworthiness in their duties so as to deliver maximum benefit to the ailing persons. This principle calls for dedication at work, honesty and fulfillment of the promises that these people give to their patients. Failure of the medical personnel to attend to their assigned duties is contrary to this principle and hence, fidelity is crucial. The team should also keep medical conditions of the sick person confidential as opposed to unnecessary publicity of sensitive medical issues. For instance, due to the stigmatization that is associated with the AIDS, it is advisable for the medical team not to disclose the ailment to strangers or people who are not close relatives of the ailing person so as to protect the latter from trauma and stigmatization as well.

Disclosure

Health professionals are obliged to reveal to their patients the medical conditions that have been diagnosed on them because the latter have the right to be aware of the medical procedures done on their bodies and if possible to choose what kind of medication they prefer. However, there is the need to take care so as to avoid traumatizing the ailing people by giving them sensitive information about their health. The team should also offer counseling services to the sick so as to offer them emotional support as well as advising them on how to cope with the ailment. After revealing the ailment, the doctor should also reveal the treatment options as well as their outcomes and side effects so as to prepare the patient psychologically as well as enabling him/her to make informed decision on the choice of treatment.  For example in cases of kidney failure, the doctor should reveal the diagnosed failure to the ailing person after counseling and has to further enlighten him/her on the medical options such as kidney transplant and the associated benefits as well as risks.

Federal Regulations Over Health Care

The Privacy Act (1974)

The Act is written in the U.S. Constitution and gives Americans the power to access health information that is obtained from them by health agencies as well as partially determining to whom that information should be revealed. The Act therefore gives patients a right over their medical information and these compels medical practitioners to consult ailing persons before revealing their health information. Since the federal governments are inferior to the U.S. Constitution, they are therefore obliged to supervise the Privacy Act in their respective territories.

Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Victims Information

The rule prohibits revelation of health records of such people including their diagnosis and treatment. The law additionally specifies the reasons why such information can be revealed without the consent of the patient and therefore medical teams are compelled to stick to the rule as opposed to working haphazardly. The law is useful in preventing the stigmatization of drug addicts as well as promoting their rehabilitation and recovery that assimilates them back into the society.

The Standards of Accreditation

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations that is charged with the responsibility of assessing the standards of such organizations before giving them a green light to continue serving requires that the organizations safeguard health records and keep them confidential. This rule compels medical practitioners to observe privacy of information or risk being blacklisted. The commission therefore maintains discipline in the medical field by setting minimum standards.

Conclusion

Conclusively, the medical ethics and laws were selected in this research to reveal the measures put in place by the federal governments to manage and control the health sector so as to provide quality healthcare to the residents of the United States of America. The problem in question was the negligence by medical practitioners while discharging their duties as well as violation of the patients’ right to timely assistance, autonomy and privacy of information among others. The research method used in this study was a desktop research whereby the researcher analyzed the work of various academic writers in order to come up with a collection of as many academic ideas as possible. The findings are well acknowledged through in-text citations and by extension in the reference list.

The researcher came up with the ethical principles of medication as follows, Autonomy whereby the medical personnel are supposed to respect the patient’s right to self-made decisions as well as supporting him/her in such decisions. Beneficence was also unearthed by the researcher and this implies that doctors and nurses should be compassionate to their patients and therefore, should offer timely assistance to ameliorate suffering. Non-maleficence is also anchored in this study, and refers to the requirement that doctors and nurses should do “good” or benefit the patient as opposed to causing harm. Fidelity is also an important principle that obligates the medical team to be dedicated in their work as well as being honest to their patients. The medical team is also supposed to observe justice that entails discrimination of patients as per their needs and requirement other that hatred or love. Paternalism is also captured in the study whereby nurses and doctors are bestowed the parental role over patients that obligate them to know what medication is right or appropriate. The last principle is disclosure that makes medical teams responsible of carefully revealing to the patients the medical condition they have diagnosed as well as the appropriate treatment and its effects.

Apart from the ethical principles, ethical theories supporting them have also been unearthed and these are; Ethical relativism that acknowledges variance in contexts and therefore allows the medical team to do what is right in a specific context. Feminist theory also concurs with the ethical relativism as it calls for the examination of the context before a conclusion is made. Deontological theory urges the practitioners of medicine to follow the law while executing their duties and specifically refers to the medical laws. Utilitarianism theory calls for doing actions that are beneficial to a large number of people and this encourages the medical team to focus on saving as many lives as possible. Lastly, the ethical principles as well as the theories are very useful for promoting the enhancement of the wellbeing of patients so as to reduce mortality rates.

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