Ethics of Confidentiality

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Running head: ETHICS OF CONFIDENTIALITY

Ethics of Confidentiality
Stacy L. Reynolds
Grand Canyon University: NRS437V
March 24, 2012
Ethics of Confidentiality

In a television episode of ER which aired on NBC in 2000, a nurse became aware of risky sexual behaviors that had led to a 14 year old girl having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and cervical cancer. Prior to finding this information out, the nurse had promised the patient that she would not tell anyone about whatever the patient discussed with her. But upon realizing the high risk of the girl’s behavior, the nurse came to find herself in a dilemma of whether or not to reveal how the girl had contracted the STD which led to her cancer because of the public health risks. Although maintaining confidentiality is a cornerstone of the nurse-patient relationship, there are instances wherein protection of the greater good must prevail.

There are basic ethical principles expected by consumers of health-related services. Altruism, beneficence, respect for autonomy, veracity, fidelity, and justice are cited as fundamental values. (Maurer and Smith, 2010) These notions are not only implied, but mandated through standards of care, professional organizations, and federal law. ANA Code for Nurses asserts that the most important ethical principle of nursing practice is “respect for the inherent dignity and worth … of human existence and the individuality of all persons” (Maurer and Smith, p. 12) The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act was passed in 1996 to protect the privacy of patient’s health-related information. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003) Though the vitality of confidentiality is well-established and central to the healthcare industry, there are instances that preclude this tenet of healthcare. For example, there is legal precedent allowing breach of confidentiality. This was set by Tarasoff v. Regents of University of...
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