Paper Example on Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence, and Justice

Published: 2023-05-01
Paper Example on Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence, and Justice
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Healthcare
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 983 words
9 min read

Healthcare practitioners encounter a bewildering array of ethical dilemmas in the course of discharging their duties. Different treatment and policies have both drawbacks and merits in different medical settings (Kelleher, 2014). Again, patients enjoy the freedom to choose and pick the way of treatment under specific circumstances. The difficulties and merits of medical policies rely primarily on the four fundamental principles of medical ethics. The four principles act as the blueprint for medical practitioners in making critical decisions in complicated situations (Kelleher, 2014). Ideally, these practices must incorporate beneficence, justice, autonomy, and non-maleficence.

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The above-illustrated ideas help in; solving ethical dilemmas, enlightening both patients and practitioners of ethical issues, complying with the set code of ethical conduct, and evaluating outcomes of interventions to enhance standard conduct. However, contradicting research believes that the approach is inadequate, inconsistent, and inapplicable (De Roubaix, 2011). This paper aims at exploring the implications, both advantages, and disadvantages, of the four fundamental principles governing medical practices regarding the scenario given. Additionally, in light of the implications' comparisons and contrasts, the paper recommends the most appropriate solution for the dilemma.

The paper will begin by analyzing the principle of beneficence concerning the incidence of a family member asking a medical professional to withhold imperfect prognosis information against a patient diagnosed by an inoperable tumor. Beneficence refers to the moral concept of acting to benefit others. The philosophy of beneficence is built on charity, kindness, mercy, and love, thereby constrains medical professionals to act in the best interest of the patient (De Roubaix, 2011). In the scenario given, the medical professional's decision whether to disclose the information to the patient should be beneficial to the patient. The philosophy of beneficence holds that the doctor should disregard the family member's plea and release the information to the patient. The substantiality of truth-telling in healthcare lies in the patients' respect and their discretion in making a decision.

However, the idea of beneficence is contradicted by beneficence as an obligation (De Roubaix, 2011). Some studies assets that beneficence is obligatory, especially in cases involving family members (De Roubaix, 2011). This is to say that medical professionals should take into consideration the views of the family member. Considering this case, the idea pf beneficence surpasses beneficence as an obligation. The ideal of beneficence should form the basis of clinicians' decision making. The information should be disclosed and allow the patient to make an ideal decision for himself.

The principle of non-maleficence refers to clinicians' conduct in a way that does not inflict harm on others. Medical interventions should only be provided in cases that will benefit the patient (Cribb, 2010). This means, in the case given, the doctor should give the information to the patients since he/she has the right to be given the information. Giving out this information is a 'harm' that involves the patient in decision making. However, there are instances where a clinician can deviate from the set ethical code and inflict harm for the good of the patient (De Roubaix, 2011). In this case, releasing prognosis information to the patient may cause anxiety. Anxiety among patients does not substantiate medical interventions. The medical professional should disclose the information and engage the patient in the treatment process.

The philosophy of autonomy addresses the question of who has the right to decide what is suitable for the patient (Cribb, 2010). The principle holds that patients have the right to express their views and make decisions on their own (Cribb, 2010). Respect for autonomy prohibits clinicians from constraining patients and advocates a patient's consent before any act of treatment is undertaken. It is, therefore, imperative to inform the patient of the prognosis to get views and consent. This may, however, cause mental harm to the patient. Informing the patient on the prognosis can cause mental disturbance both to the patient and the family members. In whatever way, this does not override the 'greater good' of getting explicit consent from the patient.

The principle of justice focuses majorly on the party whose good is done to. A situation is deemed just when it has the best possible result (Cribb, 2010). In the context of this case, withholding the information may avoid some psychological effect on the patient. This can be regarded as an injustice to the patient as far as his/her mental effect is concerned. However, withholding the information does not necessarily help in the treatment proves. The justice of a patient is served when all rights are granted. The right to access information about their illness is absolute (De Roubaix, 2011). This right allows the patient to participate in decision making, which is an essential component in the treatment process.

In conclusion, there are numerous instances when a clinician has to deviate from the principles of medical care for the benefit of the patient (De Roubaix, 2011). Treatment intervention should only be done for the greater good of the patient. The conclusion reached when a deviation of the four principles occurs is not justified. In this context, the decision of the medical professional either to withhold or release the information should reflect the ultimate effect on the patient's treatment of the inoperable tumor. Despite the possible dangers of releasing the information, it is beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no significant good to the patient. The clinician should, therefore, take into consideration the four principles of healthcare ethical issues. This will be just in the sense that the patient will benefit by; accessing information about the disease and be part of decision making.


Cribb, A. (2010). Translational ethics? The theory-practice gap in medical ethics. Journal Of Medical Ethics, 36(4), 207-210.

De Roubaix, J. (2011). Beneficence, non-maleficence, distributive justice, and respect for patient autonomy - reconcilable ends in aesthetic surgery?. Journal Of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, 64(1), 11-16. (De Roubaix, 2011)

Kelleher, J. (2014). Beneficence, Justice, and Health Care. Kennedy Institute Of Ethics Journal, 24(1), 27-49. (Kelleher, 2014)

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