This excerpt from our ‘Texas Speech-Language Pathology Ethics and Jurisprudence‘ CEU course provides an in-depth look at the challenges and solutions in dealing with ethics in healthcare, as it pertains to Speech-Language Pathology.
Ethics in Healthcare
The Purpose of this Course Although the term “ethics” may be a determining factor in guiding behavior in a multitude of everyday situations, it is applied slightly differently in various professions. Professional healthcare workers need to be familiar with both the broad definition of ethics and how it is applied in their own profession and professional settings.
Components of the Course To understand and apply ethics in the healthcare setting, you must complete a comprehensive overview of ethics as it relates to the healthcare profession. This course is designed to give you such an overview of ethics. You will learn how ethics applies to the healthcare industry, how to define ethics (and how not to define ethics), why ethics and ethical behavior matters, and how what you have learned applies to the healthcare setting. Ethics in Healthcare As a healthcare professional, you will need to deal with two aspects of ethics: professional ethics and business ethics.
The concept of professional ethics is what will guide your behavior in dealing directly with patients and their families. The concept of business ethics will guide how you will act and react within the healthcare organization where you work. This course is designed to give you an overview of the difference between business ethics and professional ethics.
Applying Ethical Principles in the Healthcare Setting
- 3.1 Ethics and Personal Beliefs We’ve already discussed how ethics supersede personal beliefs. Although personal beliefs are certainly one component of ethical behavior, they are not the primary principle that should guide ethical behavior. Healthcare providers must strive to set aside personal beliefs and work toward reasonable and well-founded ethical behavior.
- 3.2 Personal and Professional Integrity Ethical behavior lies at the heart of personal and professional integrity. Although your personal beliefs may be different from what is ethical, you can learn to incorporate ethics into your professional behavior. Ethical standards include all of the following components.
- 3.2.1 Honesty Honesty may be the most important component of ethical standards. The individual that is always honest may avoid many ethical conflicts and solve ethical dilemmas far easier than the individual who perceives deception as an option. It is important to deal honestly with everyone. Healthcare workers should demonstrate honesty and integrity in all interactions with coworkers, patients, families, administrators, and practitioners. But, honesty comes with its own built-in dilemma. What to tell, and to whom. Because honesty means being completely truthful, many people make the mistake of believing that they have to share all information with everyone in order to be truthful. This is not always the case. Case Study Consider the case of an individual who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has been given three months to live. This individual, a married mother of three, has shared her diagnosis and prognosis with her husband, but does not want to share the information with her three children, a boy, 17; a girl, 15; and a boy, 10. You, as a healthcare professional, personally believe that your patient should share her prognosis with her children in order to give them a chance to say goodbye. On a personal level, you also believe that she should tell her children that she will likely die. Given that your patient does not want her children to know her prognosis, what should you do? Is it ethical to withhold information from the children? Is your patient your only obligation? Should you tell the children, or should you keep your patient’s secret? Honesty, in this situation, could mean that when the children, or other family members, ask how your patient is doing, you may need to direct their inquiries to the patient and/or her husband. Ethical decisions are rarely easy. Your primary obligation is to your patient. You must respect her wishes. However, it is completely ethical to encourage her to share her prognosis with her children. In this way, you have maintained honesty in an ethical manner.
- 188.8.131.52 Honesty, Documentation, and Reporting The principle of honesty also extends to clinical reporting. As a healthcare professional, you may be faced with situations in which honest reporting may cause problems for you, a coworker, and/or the organization you work for. Honest reporting may be in the best interest of the patient, but not for anyone else. Honest reporting may also be not in the best interest of anyone. Regardless of who benefits, or does not benefit, from honest reporting and documentation, as a healthcare professional, you are obligated to honestly represent the patient’s care. Such honesty in documentation extends to status notes, clinical observations, medical administration, and results. The patient’s chart, including physical examination findings, lab values, test results, medications, and any other relevant information must be reported honestly. Documentation and reporting must never be fabricated.
- 3.2.2 Responsibility Ethical behavior is connected to responsible behavior. As a healthcare professional, you are obligated to acquire the knowledge and skills you need to provide quality care. This means that you will need to be responsible for more than merely technical knowledge and the application of that knowledge. You are also obligated to learn and understand healthcare ethics and to apply them in your work. As a responsible healthcare provider, you must care for individuals in a way that does not cause harm, danger, or neglect to that individual. To be neglectful or negligent means that you fail to exercise the degree of knowledge and skill necessary to provide quality care.
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