January 23, 2012
Professional Ethics Paper
Medical professionals have a responsibility to their clients to deliver safe, quality care with regard for patients’ individuality, needs, and desires. Patients seek out professional health care with their own goals in mind. Their goals may not match ours, but we as health care providers have a duty to inform and treat our clients with competence and afford them the utmost dignity and respect. In short, we must be ethical in our practice. We have an equal obligation to uphold the law. But law and ethics are not always synchronous. What may be legal in practice may be unethical; and what may seem the ethical choice may not be legal. We must strive to uphold both the law and code of ethics of our profession. The Relationship between Legal and Ethical Issues
Law is concerned with how we live; what we can and cannot do. Laws are rules governing conduct and offenses to these laws at times are punishable. Ethics is a system of values-based conduct. Ethics provides a framework from which to decide a course of action based on what is morally acceptable to an individual.
Some actions can be legal, but deemed unethical. In health care, a patient is afforded certain rights, such as the right to refuse treatment, even if the potential outcome results in the loss of his or her life. In such cases, health care providers may find themselves conflicted in their duties because of their own ethical values. However, we as health care providers must allow our patients to decide for themselves their course of treatment. This respect for a patient’s autonomy, or determination, is considered one of the foundational ethical principles in health care (Perry, Churchill, & Kirshner, 2005).
Personal Values and Professional Ethics
Values are that which is believed to be important to an individual or an organization. Something considered valuable has worth. Values are closely linked with morals, which are concerned with judging right from wrong. Values are formed early on in our lives and come from family, societal norms, religious indoctrination, and cultural views. Though values vary from person to person, they inform a one’s sense of what is right and wrong. They provide standards for living based on what is considered important to the individual or organization. Values are the basis by which we judge the rightness or wrongness of an action. Values may change as we move away from our families and adopt different sets of values and norms gleaned from the society in which we exist.
Values inform ethics. Ethics is a philosophy used in determining the right or moral behavior in a given situation. Ethics is concerned with behaving as we should and is based on individual or corporate values. Personal ethics, like values can change over time based on changing societal influences. Professional ethics is a framework for the way we should act in a professional setting. Professional ethics use reasoning and professional values to guide our behavior. Codes of ethics guide health care professionals by addressing ethical behaviors in a variety of clinical situations. Cohen and Erickson (2006) add that “Ethical codes of professional practice outline principles that demonstrate the responsibility of the profession's members to society” (p. 776). Ethical Theories
Although many ethical theories exist, the two main ethical theories that apply to clinical practice are deontological and teleological.
Deontological theory states that when facing ethical dilemmas we should adhere to our commitments and duties. It means keeping ones promises and following the laws, rules, and policies to which all medical professionals are held accountable. Deontological theory is classified as non-consequential because outcomes are less important than honoring one’s duties and...