While health care delivery is primarily led by knowledge in the health sciences, it is also guided by ethics, a set of moral principles that help practitioners make justifiable decisions about patient care. Ethics in health care is influenced by many different factors, including our innate sense of right and wrong. When we better understand our own rights and duties to our patients, we have a clearer path to defend our reasoning for decisions that fulfill our ethical responsibilities as health care practitioners.
When you earn an online Master of Science in Health Care Ethics from Creighton University, you will learn more about the importance of health care ethics and why it is an important topic for patients, their families and their caregivers. Here are five reasons that ethics is so vital to the health care industry:
- It creates a safer environment for all. Ethics gives health care professionals the responsibility of ensuring their fellow workers are upholding the rights and obligations of the profession. For example, if a nurse realizes that a co-worker is abusing drugs or alcohol, and this creates an unsafe environment, the nurse is ethically and legally obligated to report this behavior. Such a system could not only save patients from harm but can also provide an avenue for the co-worker to get necessary help.1
- It improves patient care. Ethics not only provides a much clearer path for making decisions but creates an environment in which health care professionals can discuss ethical problems. By identifying potential ethical problems, steps can be taken for the patient and surrogate decision-makers, if required, to be involved in discussing the issue and to get prompt attention to correct the problem.2
- It increases public support. Trust plays a significant role in the relationship between a health care provider and patient. When the public believes in the medical community and knows that each member of that community is committed to acting in the patients’ best interests, it fosters feelings of trust and support. This could even translate into donations from wealthy benefactors for life-saving research projects.3
- It guides end-of-life decisions. End-of-life decisions are difficult from all standpoints; often the family has a very different viewpoint than the medical staff. As the aging population continues to increase, these questions and challenges are more important, and perhaps more difficult, than ever before.4 Ethics allows you to answer such questions as, what if the family of a terminally ill patient wants you to prolong his or her life? What if they want you to end life-sustaining therapy prematurely?5 In Creighton’s health care ethics program, MHE 614 addresses these difficult questions and attempts to make them easier for the health care provider to answer.
- It increases patient privacy and confidence. While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates that patient information cannot be disclosed to others, before it existed health care ethics had already created a professional duty for providers to maintain confidentiality of both personal and medical information. When patients know their sensitive information is protected, they are more likely to be forthcoming with information.6
Understanding the importance of ethics in health care is the first step in learning how to uphold it. With an online Master of Science in Health Care Ethics from Creighton University, you will learn how important a role it plays in your professional life and will learn to use it as a guideline for your daily decisions.
1http://www.nursesbooks.org/ebooks/download/CodeofEthics.pdf, p. 37
2Pavlish, C, Brown-Saltzman, K., Hersh, M., Shirk, M., Nudelman, O. (2011). Early Indicators and Risk Factors for Ethical Issues in Clinical Practice. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 43:1, 13–21.