Ethical Issues in Healthcare

Mar 28, 2020
folder_opencategory: Medicine

In the health sector, there are different laws and ethical standards that affect the healthcare staff. These laws or ethical standards are used to manage policy better in health institutions by administrators. Ethical standards ensure that the medical staffs abide by morals in the course of their work. Therefore, they are held to a high ethical standard by their management. One of the health ethical standards that have effects on the management of various institutions is the safety of patients. It is important that medical staff ensure the safety of their patients when they are in the under their care in hospitals. Over the years, the responsibility of ensuring the safety of patients has been left for nurses. However, nurses are not involved in the decision-making process in healthcare facilities, and administrators and physicians are those who have delegated this role to nurses. As a result, nurses should ensure the safety of the patients that they treat. This essay discusses the ethical issue surrounding patient safety.

The discussion about patients’ safety occurred after a report by Kohn, Corrigan, and Donaldson (2000) dubbed “To Err is Human”. In this report, it was revealed that each year, 98,000 patients died due to errors made in hospitals (Kohn, Corrigan, & Donaldson, 2000). Other researches followed this report, continuing to insist on the issue of patient safety (Lachman, 2007). Different errors have been observed in nursing. They include the errors of omission, such as not changing a dressing as required by the physician, the errors of commission, such as misusing medical equipment, and the errors of medical administration. Errors related to medical administration represent the majority of the errors made in nursing. The issues related to medical administration revolve around the five rights of patients, including the right patient, the right medication to the patient, giving the right dosage, in the right way (route), and administered at the right time (Kelley, 2002). The main reason attributed to the errors made by nurses is their work overload.

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The authors of the report continue to give various strategies that can be employed to ensure that nurses comply with their moral obligation (Kohn, Corrigan, & Donaldson, 2000). The first strategy outlined is for nurses to implement and follow safe practice (National Quality Forum, 2003). Additionally, the management should develop a reporting system that protects nurses’ confidentiality. After the report about an error is made, the administration should ensure that the patient learns about this error (Fein et al., 2007). Lastly, the last strategy outlined by the author is to report unethical nurses or those who break the law to the supervisors.

The main ethical issue discussed in this article is patient safety. Sometimes, during treatment, nurses and physicians can make errors in treating the patient. According to Kohn, Corrigan, and Donaldson (2000), the institution of medicine gives a definition of error as the failure of a pre-determined action to be finished as required or using a wrong plan to achieve a goal. Kelley (2002) discusses these errors to revolve around the five rights as mentioned above. It should be noted that this problem has been experienced by most medical practitioners in the course of their career. Different measures are used to evaluate this ethical issue, including the systems approach and the individual blame. According to Leape (2005), systems theory says that people are put in a position to make mistakes by the faulty design of the administrative process. It gives a suggestion that individuals should not be punished for their errors. Individual blame, on the other hand, refers to a situation where the staffs are expected to take full responsibility for any errors that they perform. As the result of errors, the main outcome of this problem is the deterioration of health of patients. In extreme cases, patients can even die due to the errors made by the medical personnel. Patients who survive such an ordeal can sue the institution where the error occurred. Therefore, patients’ safety should be the number one concern for all health officials.

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The audience of the article under discussion is all health providers. Thus, it is not limited to nurses alone. Some of the reasons cited in the article, such as causing errors during treatment, have everything to do with the rest of the healthcare providers, including hospital administrators and physicians. Therefore, it is important that each of these stakeholders in the health care of patients understand the role that they play in ensuring their safety. The article also talks about how this issue affects patients. Thus, the right of patients is to know when any medical errors have been made to them. 

In conclusion, patients’ safety is an important ethical issue that all health institutions should take seriously. Patients’ safety becomes an issue if the medical personnel charged with the treatment of a patient make errors during treatment or use of a wrong method to treat them. Several tools are used to measure the errors done in an institution, including a systems approach and individual blame. The systems approach does not put the blame on a single person but instead, it blames the processes of the institution. On the other hand, in individual blame, the medical personnel carry all the responsibility for the error. From the systems approach, it is evident that the rest of the institution should play a part in carrying the blame instead of making nurses carry the sole responsibility for any errors made. 

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