In a healthcare environment that is rapidly changing, clinical healthcare professionals are often faced with difficult choices regarding the well being of patients. Some of these choices sometimes become engrained in ethical dilemmas. In fact, these ethical dilemmas are the ones that often give rise to different or varying opinions when it comes to decision making in healthcare management. In this paper, I am going one ethical dilemma and then come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with this dilemma.
Ethical Dilemma: Patient Autonomy vs. Beneficence
One of the biggest ethical dilemmas that healthcare professionals are faced with is concerned with patient autonomy vs. beneficence. In medical terms, patient autonomy is the patient’s right to make self decisions related to their healthcare without undue influence of the medical practitioner. On the other hand, beneficence is an action that is essentially done for other’s benefit. These actions are taken with the motive to remove or prevent harm or to improve the general situation of others (Brown 1999).
Patient autonomy and beneficence often clash in medical fraternities. The values and principles of the health community that is the hospital staff may conflict with the values of the patient or their families. One particular example of this is the refusal to have blood transfusions, in spite of the negative consequences that may accompany this refusal.
Possible Solution Alternatives
This ethical dilemma often brings out varying opinions in the decision making process in healthcare. There are however several alternatives to dealing with this dilemma. One of them would be to consider autonomy as a parameter gauge for individual healthcare and thus use it whenever issues related to it arise. In another alternative, the medical fraternity can come up with a comprehensive plan for evaluating the capacity of a patient to make critical health decisions (Dracopoulou 2006). In another alternative which I actually think it’s the best, the medical institution should formulate a dynamic plan that assembles a team of various health professionals that sits down whenever issues of patient autonomy and beneficence arises.
Specific Plan Model
In this particular plan, the health professionals would comprise of different health staff that have direct dealings with the patient. For example, the panel would comprise of the patient’s doctors, a nurse, hospital administrator, and a family representative. The matter at hand would be laid before the table and a comprehensive discussion and compromise session would take place.
A potential three step strategy that would come in handy in such a situation would be comprised of the following elements.
- Analysis of the consequences
Before engaging in this, it is crucial that the stipulations of the law are considered. As Pozgar (2012) states, the decision made must be one that abides to the established laws of the land. After this is done, the consequences can then be analyzed. Some of the questions to be considered include: How wills the patient benefit from the decision? Who will be hurt by the medical decision? Will the decision be beneficial in the long term or the short term only?
- Analysis of the actions
In this step, an analysis of all the actions is done with absolutely no regard to the consequences. Things considered include, how a given medical option weighs up against moral principles, for example, honesty, equality, fairness, respect of other’s dignity and rights. It is also important to consider whether the medical option involves a conflict of rights or principles between various people.
- Making the decision
This is the final step where all the parts of the analysis form the first two steps are taken into account before making the decision.
Roles of the Participants
Every member in this particular group has an important part to play. For example, the patient’s doctor would provide the panel with all the medical implications and also define all the medical jargon that may require further interpretation. The nurse who usually spends more time with the patient would provide the panel with vivid description of the patient’s medical tendencies and attitudes. The hospital administrator would give an evaluation of the hospital’s policies and how the measure up against the opinions of the panel members. The family member would provide the panel with a final family’s opinion on the whole issue.
The harmonization of the different opinions and perspectives from members of the panel would inadvertently enable a decision that will ultimately benefit the patient even when the patient may not appreciate it at his present condition. I also believe that such a model would help to alleviate the implications of the major issue at hand, and that is the emergence of varying opinions in the decision making process in healthcare management.
Brown, M. (1999). Health Care Management: Strategy, Structure, and Process. New York:
Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Dracopoulou, S. (2006). Ethics and Values in Healthcare Management. London: Routledge.
Pozgar, G. D. (2012). Legal aspects of health care administration. Sudbury, Mass: Jones & Bartlett Learning.