- Medical ethics principles:
a. Autonomy – Autonomy refers to the respect of persons principle, which permits individuals to make decisions on their own. This principle can be illustrated by a patient’s right to refuse treatment.
Beneficence – Beneficence, or the principle of good deeds, requires that health care providers provide services to promote the wellbeing of their patients. A doctor performing a procedure that saves a patient’s life is an example of the principle.
Non-maleficence (non-harm): This principle requires that health care providers avoid taking actions which could cause harm to their patients. A doctor could avoid performing a treatment that might harm their patient as an example.
The principle of justice is fairness. It requires that health care providers treat patients equally and fairly, no matter their circumstances or background. This principle can be illustrated by a hospital that provides the same standard of care for all patients regardless of insurance or financial status.
e. Fidlity. This principle is based on trust and requires that health care providers maintain their patient’s trust by maintaining confidential information. An example of this principle is a doctor keeping a patient’s medical information confidential and not sharing it with others without the patient’s consent.
Veracity (truthfulness): The principle of veracity requires that health care professionals provide their patients with truthful information. An example of this principle is a doctor providing accurate information about a patient’s diagnosis and prognosis.
- Principles that conflict with each other
A situation where two or more principles are in conflict is when a patient’s autonomy (the right to make their own medical decisions) conflicts with the principle of beneficretion (the right to make decisions for the benefit of the patient). For example, if a patient refuses a life-saving procedure, the doctor may have to choose between respecting the patient’s autonomy and acting in their best interests.
A conflict can also arise when the principles of non-maleficence and beneficretion are incompatible. If a doctor is faced with the choice of providing treatment to a patient that could harm them or not treating the patient and potentially causing harm then they will be in conflict.
It can be difficult to decide which principle is most important in these circumstances. In these situations, it can be difficult to determine which principle should take priority.