Mini Review - Journal of Public Health Policy and Planning (2023) Volume 7, Issue 3
Balancing autonomy and beneficence: Exploring the complexities of health ethics.
Department of Medicine, University of Udine, Udine, Italy
- Corresponding Author:
- Ricci Grasso
Department of Medicine
University of Udine, Udine, Italy.
Received: 24-Mar-2023, Manuscript No. AAPHPP-23-93752; Editor assigned: 27-Mar-2023, PreQC No. AAPHPP-23-93752 (PQ); Reviewed: 09-Apr-2023, QC No. AAPHPP-23-93752; Revised: 04-May-2023, Manuscript No. AAPHPP-23-93752 (R); Published: 11-May-2023, DOI: 10.35841/aaphpp- 7.3.179
Citation: Grasso R. Balancing autonomy and beneficence: Exploring the complexities of health ethics. J Public Health Policy Plan. 2023; 7(3):179
Health ethics is a field that explores the moral and ethical issues that arise in healthcare. It is concerned with ensuring that healthcare providers and institutions act in a manner that is consistent with ethical principles, such as respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. However, balancing these principles can be complex and challenging, especially when they come into conflict with each other.
One of the primary ethical principles in healthcare is autonomy, which refers to an individual's right to make decisions about their own healthcare. Autonomy is often regarded as a fundamental human right, and healthcare providers have an obligation to respect and promote their patient's autonomy . However, the principle of beneficence, which refers to the obligation to act in the patient's best interest, can conflict with autonomy. For example, if a patient refuses a life-saving treatment, healthcare providers may struggle with respecting the patient's autonomy while also fulfilling their obligation to act in the patient's best interest.
In addition to balancing autonomy and beneficence, health ethics also considers the principle of non-maleficence, which means "do no harm." Healthcare providers have a responsibility to avoid causing harm to their patients, both through direct actions and through omissions. For example, withholding a potentially life-saving treatment from a patient could be considered an act of harm. Another important ethical principle in healthcare is justice, which refers to the obligation to treat patients fairly and equitably. This includes providing healthcare services to all patients, regardless of their social or economic status. However, justice can be challenging to achieve in practice, especially when there are limited resources or when patients have competing needs .
Health ethics is a constantly evolving field, with new ethical challenges arising as medical technology and knowledge advances. For example, ethical questions around gene editing, artificial intelligence, and end-of-life care continue to be debated by healthcare providers, patients, and policymakers. Health ethics is a complex and dynamic field that requires healthcare providers and institutions to balance the competing ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. By exploring and addressing these ethical challenges, healthcare providers can ensure that they are providing the best possible care to their patients while also upholding the highest ethical standards.
One of the key ethical considerations in healthcare is informed consent. Informed consent is the process of obtaining permission from patients before any medical treatment or procedure is performed. It ensures that patients understand the risks and benefits of the proposed treatment, and that they are able to make an informed decision about their care. Informed consent is essential in promoting patient autonomy and respecting their right to make decisions about their own health .
Another important ethical consideration in healthcare is confidentiality. Healthcare providers have a duty to protect patient information and ensure that it is not disclosed without the patient's consent. This is important for preserving patient privacy and ensuring that sensitive information is not shared inappropriately. End-of-life care is another area of healthcare where ethical considerations play a significant role. Healthcare providers must balance the patient's autonomy and quality of life with the ethical principles of beneficence and non-maleficence. This can be particularly challenging when patients are no longer able to make decisions for themselves, and healthcare providers must rely on advance directives or proxy decision-makers to make decisions on the patient's behalf .
Health ethics also plays a crucial role in medical research. Researchers have an ethical obligation to ensure that their research is conducted in a manner that respects the dignity and rights of study participants. This includes obtaining informed consent, protecting confidentiality, and ensuring that the study does not cause unnecessary harm to participants. In recent years, health ethics has become increasingly relevant in the context of global health. Issues such as vaccine distribution, access to healthcare, and health disparities have all raised ethical questions about how we can best promote health equity and ensure that all individuals have access to high-quality healthcare. It requires healthcare providers to balance the competing ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice, and make decisions that align with the values and principles that underpin healthcare .
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