All healthcare professionals take the Hippocratic Oath, in this oath it states that, “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. ” (Miles, S. H. (2004) There are many different versions of this oath but the concept and meaning behind it remains unchanged. This section of the oath was designed in part to protect patient’s privacy. Building and establishing a relationship based on trust with our patients is essential in the foundation in providing good quality care.
This allows our patients to feel comfortable discussing anything with us and knowing it will be kept confidential. In nursing ethics play a critical role, breaching confidentiality can have a magnitude of ethical consequences including legal issues and patients no longer trusting medical professionals. As healthcare professionals, we are faced with situations daily with an array of ethical, legal and professional responsibilities where we have to use our own personal judgments to protect both our patients but the public as well.
As a legal concept, confidentiality can be said to be an obligation on one person to uphold the privacy and security of another person’s information. This legal obligation arises in several areas: under common law; in contract law where these terms can be express terms or implied; and as a general legal duty where it could be considered negligent if harm results as a consequence of a breach of confidence. ” (Cornock 2011). Confidentiality does not override ethical principles in all cases, and some cases it would be considered unethical to not break confidentiality when a legal requirement makes a breach mandatory.
Nursing encompasses the prevention of illness, the alleviation of suffering, and the protection, promotion, and restoration of health in the care of individuals, families, groups and communities. ” (ANA 2010) This duty to such an extensive population can pose obvious conflicts both professionally and personally. Does the right to privacy of our patient over ride a safety concern to our community? In nursing practice nurses are able to use a variety of ethical theories and apply these to patient situations. “Deontologic theories hold that you are acting rightly when you act according to duties and rights.
In other words, duties and rights are the correct measuring rods for evaluating a course of action and its outcome. ” (Purtilo 90) People who follow this theory in their clinical practice have very consistent decisions as these are based on their duty. It becomes the healthcare provider’s duty and obligation to respect and protect a patient’s confidentiality. By breaching patients confidentiality breaks the trust that was built between patient and provider. “Utilitarianism, an act is right if it helps to bring about the best balance of benefits over burdens, in other words, the best “utility” or consequences overall. (Purtilo 92)
This theory would be basing a decision on whether or not the action (breaking or not breaking confidentiality) brings out the best outcome. However, sometimes the best outcome isn’t legally correct. In the article “Bioethics on NBC’s ER: Betraying Trust or Providing Good care? When is it ok to Break Confidentiality? by Pamela Nathanson, we see a time when a healthcare provider is faced with an ethical dilemma on whether to break a patient’s confidentiality in order to protect the patient and the community.
Like with any ethical dilemma there are steps that can be used to help a healthcare provider make a decision or help solve the problem. These steps include: 1) gather relevant information, 2) identify the type of ethical problem, 3) use ethics theories or approaches to analyze the problem(s), 4) explore the practical alternatives, 5) complete the action, and finally 6) evaluate the process and outcome. (Purtilo pg 102-110) Using this process healthcare professionals are able to make decisions to tough ethical dilemmas that come up in their clinical practice.
I agree with Ms. Nathanson that the parents needed to be informed of their daughters diagnosis in order to prevent harm to the patient and ensuring the patient receives proper follow up care. I also agree that the school did not need to be informed of who the student was but to inform the school that it had come to the attention of medical professionals about sex parties going on in the school. By choosing this way you are ensuring the safety of your patient and the community with causing the least amount of damage.
If you disclosed to the school who the student was as the nurse did in the show you risk unnecessary harm to your patient. Ethics committees are made up of members that include a lawyer, an ethicist, quality improvement manager, a nurse, a clergyman, a physician and an individual from within the community. By joining together these members with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives they are able to come together to help develop different alternatives and discussions regarding ethical dilemmas that may arise. They are able to help provide recommendations in complex and challenging ethical situations.
However, these decisions are not law but they do hold certain significance on influencing a judge or jury. (GCU) As long as health care deals with life and death, ethical dilemmas will come into play for medical professionals everywhere on a daily basis. Due to the nature of the medical profession, complex situations will require fast acting decisions that can be life changing for all parties involved. It is important to have a thorough knowledge of ethical theories and principles in the health care industry so medical professionals are prepared to make these decisions when they are faced with ethical dilemmas.
Courtney from Study Moose
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