Legal and Ethical Aspects of Care

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This essay will be based on a case scenario (please see appendix for a copy of this) that will critically analyse the ethical dilemmas that health professionals face with regards to the implications of consent , disclosure of personal information and maintaining patients confidentiality. The legal implications of the case scenario will also be discussed with relation to the breach of confidentiality and how the Data Protection Act 1998 can conflict with other pieces of legislation to protect patient’s rights to their confidentiality being maintained. It will also identify the consequences’ of non –disclosure with the potential harms of disclosure without consent following the General Medical Council’s guidelines. It will also explain the case scenario from a utilitarian perspective and a deontological perspective.

From time to time, the obligation that health professional have to maintain their patients confidentiality can present them with an ethical or legal dilemma such as breaching their patients confidentiality. This then makes their duty towards their patient become complicated. Such as in the case scenario Dr Gomez informed Bob that he was HIV positive and advised him to inform his sexual partners of his infection status. An ethical dilemma arises when there is no clear solution to a problem (Sussex and Herne, 2009) in the case scenario Dr Gomez is concerned about the health and wellbeing of his paitent Bob’s current sexual partner Sue who is currently 7 months pregnant with his baby. Therefore Dr Gomez’s ethical dilemma is does he breach Bob’s confidentiality to protect both her and her unborn child? Health care professionals are faced with ethical dilemmas on a daily basis and are forced to make decisions based on the best outcome for their patient taking the legal and ethical aspects of the situation into account (Sussex and Herne, 2009). For instance one of the most common dilemmas in nursing is that Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to have blood transfusions. However to prevent this person from dying it is important that they receive a blood transfusion. The medical professionals then need to decide do they give them the blood transfusion they need to save their life or do they respect the patient’s religious beliefs and let them die? The values that health professionals have can sometimes conflict with the right and wrong choices they make. In the case scenario Dr Gomez has to decide if to tell Sue about Bob being HIV Positive or not to tell her.

When making the ethical decision of breaching a patients confidentiality to protect others it is essential that health professional know there legal, ethical and professional positions on confidentiality which are often complexed. For example the legal implications of confidential information, protected by the Data Protection Act 1998 offers guidance on how to store and maintain confidential records under this act but also identifies circumstances where disclosure of confidential information can be breached in order to protect others(Kamen,2011). HIV is classified by the Health Protection Agency as a serious communicable disease and therefore medical professions have a legal duty under the NHS Act 2006 and the Public Health 9Control of Diseases) Act 1984 to notify communicable disease control and surveillance without the patients consent (Medical Protection Society, 2012 and British Medical Association, 2012). Although this is usually done anomalously and the personal details of the infected person are kept confidential such as their name, address and date of birth it still maybe possible to identify the person (British Medical Association, 2012).in cases where information is going to be passed on to the appropriate authorities the patient will be made aware of this.

HIV is also known as human immunodeficiency virus which causes the immune system to weaken over time making it hard for the body to protect its self against infections eventually in the...
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