Ethical practice is very important in the health care sector. Although it is important even in other sectors, the health care sector involves taking care of persons. In such situations where human life is involved, it is paramount for health care professionals to observe ethics during their work. Due to the importance of ethical practice in healthcare, the bodies representing/governing different health care professionals have developed professional codes of ethics/conduct. An example would be the professional code of ethics developed by the nursing and midwifery board of Australia to guide the working of nurses (Duckett and Willcox 2015). Ethical practice could be defined as observing moral principles as defined by the society or other entities such as governing bodies (Beauchamp, 2016).
The world health organization and the international community stipulates that every individual on earth has a right to the highest attainable level of care. For this to happen, healthcare professionals must conduct themselves in a manner that upholds ethical practice. This assignment will centre on healthcare ethics. The focus will be an analysis of ethics in healthcare practice. This will be done through analysing a case study. The ethical issues raised in the case study will be identified and an analysis of the same done. Recommendations for professional practice will also be made.
Identification of Ethical Issues Raised in the Case Study
It is obvious that the triage nurse did not act in an ethical manner. She used assumption to conclude that Andrew was likely suffering from bronchitis. His assumption was motivated by the facts that several students from the same school as Andrew’s had presented with similar symptoms and had ended up being diagnosed with bronchitis. Even though, it is highly unethical to use assumptions to diagnose a patient. The ethical practice is to use the appropriate assessment techniques to be sure of the condition that a patient is suffering from. The professional code for ethics for nurses of Australia requires that nurses make informed decisions. The nurse behaved in a manner that contravened this ethical requirement. It would also be true to conclude that the principle of beneficence and non-maleficence were not observed. Here is the reason why. Making assumptions where a human life is in question does not constitute an action that is geared towards offering the most benefit to the patient. If anything, it is only likely to cause harm to the patient through poor diagnosis.
The other unethical practice was keeping the patient waiting for too long (6 hours). It was assumed that his condition was not urgent and therefore kept waiting for that long. It is due to this negligence that Andrew ultimately collapsed. In the high dependency unit, it was noted that he was most likely suffering from tuberculosis and not bronchitis as earlier assumed. Keeping the patient waiting was also a factor that would make his condition worsen and therefore the principle of non-maleficence was not observed. It was also unethical to withhold the truth from the parents/caregivers of Andrew. It seems that they were made to believe that their son presented to the hospital when the condition was already worse. The truth however, is that the condition worsened due to the negligence and unethical practice of the hospital staff. While appreciating that it was ethical to notify the parents that their son was in the hospital and his condition was very poor, it would have been important for the parents to know what exactly happened.
Analysis of the Ethical Issues Raised
The World Health Organization and the international community stipulates that every individual on the universe should receive the best possible healthcare (Runciman, Merry and Walton, 2017). According to Juth (2015), human dignity is a very important factor since human beings do not live in isolation. Dignity simply refers to the act of according respect to a fellow human being because they are human. In the case study, it turns out that neither the dignity of human life nor the right for best possible care were observed. Making a diagnosis based on assumption is a high form of disrespect to the life of a patient (Weiss, 2016). It also amounts to denying the patient the best possible care available. The best way to show respect for human life would have been to make an accurate diagnosis and subsequent care. Due to the negligence portrayed, a human life was lost. This amount to a high form of ethical misconduct and is highly punishable by law.
As observed earlier, the professional code of ethics for nurses of Australia indicates that a nurse should make informed decisions. Informed decisions can never be based on assumptions (Stoddart and Evans, 2017). The health care professional should also always uphold empathy toward their patients (Monteverde, 2014). This refers to trying to fit in the shoes of patient/client so that they can understand them and offer better care. If the nurse was empathetic toward Andrew, he would have been sure to make a proper diagnosis and ensure that he was treated as soon as possible. Being empathetic while keeping sympathy at bay is an important factor in offering the best possible care to patients (Runciman, Merry and Walton, 2017). It is also unethical to lie/ tell information that is not true to clients/caregivers. In this case, it seems that the hospital staff is trying to withhold the truth from the parents to cover up the mistakes/negligence done by their staff. This is uncalled for and unethical.
As Hunter (2016) observes, both local and international law require that human life be respected and that the best possible health care be accorded to all people. The way Andrew was treated does not observe either of these two requirements. To make the matters even worse, the hospital seems to be concealing evidence of their negligence and unethical practice. This is a crime and is punishable by law. The last aspect that will be discussed in analysis of the ethical issues is the principles of health care ethics. Two of these (beneficence and non-maleficence) were not observed. As already discussed earlier, the way Andrew was treated did not serve to accord him the most benefit. If anything, it perpetrated more harm than good. This is made very clear by the fact that his condition deteroriated and he finally dies.
Recommendations for Professional Practice
As observed from the discussion above, there were unnecessary mistakes that were made by the health professionals that amounted to unethical practice. The ethical way of practice is to make informed decisions (Faden, Beauchamp and Kass, 2014). A healthcare professional should never make a diagnosis by assuming. As Kuhse (2015) observes, the best and ethical way of making a diagnosis is using appropriate assessment techniques such as laboratory tests. The appropriate technique gives an accurate diagnosis of what the patient/client is suffering from. With a proper diagnosis, it is very easy to offer the necessary care to avert danger and improve the situation.
Care should be offered as soon as possible to the patients (Kerkhoff and Hanson, 2015). A patient should not be left to wait for too long. In the case, Andrew was left to wait for six hours. If intervention was carried out as soon as possible he would most probably have improved. Offering timely care is important in averting danger and helping the patient improve (Hall, Orentlicher, Bobinski, Bagley and Cohen, 2018). It is a way of making sure that the most benefit to the client is ensured. It is also ethical for healthcare professionals to tell truthful information to clients and their care givers even in instances where they are on the wrong. In the case study, the hospital staff seems to be hiding the truth from the parents of Andrew in what seems like a move to salvage themselves from the negligence that they have perpetrated.
Ethical practice is very important in the contemporary society. It is particularly important in the healthcare sector since human life is involved. Due to the great importance of ethical practice, agencies/bodies governing/heading health care professionals have established a professional code of ethics/conducts that their members should adhere to. Every individual on earth has a right to the best possible care. Making a diagnosis based on assumption is unethical. Such a move could lead to false diagnosis which is only likely to make the condition become worse. Making such a diagnosis therefore amounts to contravening the principles of health care ethics (beneficence and non-maleficence). It is also unethical to keep a patient waiting for too long. The healthcare professionals should endeavour to ensure that care is administered as soon as possible to the patients/clients. It is also unethical to give false information to clients/care givers and to act in a way that conceals evidence of wrongdoing. The recommended way of practice is to make diagnosis based on proper assessment. Truthful information should also be told.
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Runciman, B., Merry, A., & Walton, M. (2017). Safety and ethics in healthcare: a guide to getting it right. CRC Press.
Stoddart, G. L., & Evans, R. G. (2017). Producing health, consuming health care. In Why are some people healthy and others not? (pp. 27-64). Routledge.
Weiss, L. (2016). Autonomy Versus Beneficence Versus Nonmaleficence in a Patient with Limited Cognitive Function.