Legal and Ethical Issues in Hospitals
In the process of providing health care services, practitioners regularly face legal and ethical challenges. It is highly likely that a patient’s safety may be compromised because of some underlying issues in the medical field. Medical officers face ethical dilemmas, especially when offering services to patients from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Patients have beliefs that at times hinder applying standard approaches that are necessary for quality treatment. Despite all these challenges, medical practitioners are legally and ethically required to offer quality services to their patients. Therefore, these professionals have to ensure that they offer sustained, standard, and quality medical attention that prolongs life irrespective of the legal and ethical challenges faced daily. Some of the legal and ethical issues in hospitals are informed consent, professional boundaries, data privacy, and access to care.
The patients have a right for information about their health status and healthcare providers have an obligation to inform patients of their conditions as provided by the ethical codes .Additionally, these professionals should offer the patients enough information to enable them to can make informed decisions to avoid harming themselves in the process of seeking their preferred treatment procedures (Guido, 2017). All the medical decisions made should be for the best interest of the sick person. However, the patient or the family may have different views concerning the appropriate care from that of the doctors. In such a case, medical practitioners may be torn between the ethics of autonomy and beneficence. If there arises a conflict, then the matter ought to be resolved in a court of law which increases the costs involved in treatment.
Examples of Informed Consent Issues
- When the family of a patient asks a healthcare professional not to inform their elderly father that he is HIV positive.
- A medical practitioner may disagree with the patient’s decision to neglect treatment.
- A youth requesting treatment for his or her painful condition but his or her family are against the idea because of religious beliefs.
- A patient who is under treatment asking a physician if he or she has provided all the information concerning the test results.
Appropriate boundaries must be maintained in healthcare settings. Often, patients are vulnerable. Their susceptibility should be acknowledged by healthcare professionals. When treatment is successful, it may lead to a deep feeling of gratitude which may, in turn, be mistaken for attraction. It is unethical for healthcare providers to accept any form of gifts from patients because it may result to sexual exploitations which is against the law (McLean & Mason, 2017). As such, these professionals are expected to restrain themselves from engaging in inappropriate relationships with patients. Additionally, they are required to embrace genuine concern in their involvement with patients. Healthcare professionals who violate the mentioned ethical standard risk disciplinary action.
Examples of Professional Boundaries Issues
- A patient using sexual jokes while conversing with a nursing home staff.
- A patient offers gifts and cash to a certified nurse who has financial issues.
- A healthcare professional is asked by a patient to go for date.
- A doctor treats his relatives because the primary care giver is unavailable.
Privacy of Data
The HIPPA law requires that a patient’s privacy should be protected at all times. Heath care practitioners in hospitals should strictly follow the HIPPA laws that bar them from disclosing any information about the patients without consent. It is essential for healthcare professionals to maintain the trust of their patients to promote effective healthcare delivery. When a patient dies, privacy laws still hold and medical practitioners who disclose private information about the deceased can be sued and jailed for the violation of the law. Therefore, irrespective of circumstances that caregivers face, they should never violate the privacy laws because of the negative consequences that accompany the infringement. Furthermore, it is essential to be informed that any disputes or crisis that arises between patients and caregivers leads to loss of revenue as money has to be spent to resolve such cases.,
Examples of Data Privacy Issues
- A secretary in hospital writes an email about a patient’s medical details to another patient who is related or unrelated to the patient.
- During a cocktail party, a surgeon discloses information about his regular customers to other people.
- Sensitive medical records are accidentally thrown in the trash bin instead of being shredded thus leaking information to the public.
- Doctors discuss the confidential information of a patient during the lunch break, and on-lookers hear the information.
There are many issues revolving around access to care and health care professionals are faced with difficulty in the process of avoiding to harm patients. It is difficult for caregivers to balance between efficiency and offering quality care (Bennahum, 2018). When patients do not have adequate resources to cater for their treatment, doctors are faced with challenges in helping the patients access the best services. Regularly, the pressure from various stakeholders such as the hospital management and insurance companies further constrain treatment and prescription procedures that healthcare professionals have to offer. In case a misdiagnosis occurs due to pressure from the various parties, then a suit is likely to occur which in turn hinders service delivery in most hospitals.
Examples of Access to Care Issues
- An insurance company declining to pay for a particular treatment which the doctor believes is useful and could help the patient recover.
- A nurse who is specialized in one area is transferred to a different area of service resulting to poor service delivery because of inadequate training.
- As a result of limited insurance cover, the parents cannot allow their minor to receive regular visits from a doctor.
- A patient is denied a free sample of the drugs he/she shall use because of lack of an insurance cover
The ethical and legal issues in the hospitals are growing at an alarming rate and should be addressed with urgency. They cause poor service delivery and dissatisfaction from patients and health care providers. The safety of patients is often compromised, which often leads to injury. Although medical professionals face tough decisions to make, they should ensure that they address legal and ethical challenges in a professional way. Some of the issues in the hospitals such as informed consent, professional boundaries, data privacy, and access to care are some of the causes of disputes in the legal and ethical grounds. There should be a balance between the different ethical and legal issues to ensure excellent service delivery and satisfaction. The hospital management, insurance company, and health care professionals should mitigate the emerging trend in hospitals by following professional acts such as HIPPA, which is an acceptable standard in health care settings.
Bennahum, D. A. (2018). Managed care: Financial, legal, and ethical issues. Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press.
Guido, G. W. (2017). Legal & ethical issues in nursing. Boston: Pearson.
McLean, S., & Mason, J. K. (2017). Legal and ethical aspects of healthcare. London: Greenwich Medical Media.