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health-care providers-managers-and administrators are faced with a variety of ethical issues

health-care providers-managers-and administrators are faced with a variety of ethical issues

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health-care providers-managers-and administrators are faced with a variety of ethical issues

Common Ethical Issues in Healthcare

Ethical issues are commonplace challenges in healthcare. The behaviors of health care providers are generally guided by the four fundamental principles of ethics in medical practice, including autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. Nevertheless, these professionals often get caught between legal and ethical conflicts, presenting dilemmas in which it is impossible to decide distinctly between what is right or wrong. Such ethical issues include patient privacy and confidentiality, refusal of treatment, and waiting lists. These issues present significant conflicts of interest that require a solution in which competing interests, benefits, and ethics are all carefully balanced for maximum benefit.

Privacy and Confidentiality

Protection of a client’s private information, particularly personal health information, is not only an ethical duty of the healthcare provider but also a legal obligation. Privacy laws reserve the right to disclose personal health information to the client, whose consent has to be sought before the information is disclosed (Tarzian, 2015). However, there are situations when the healthcare provider may wish to release a client’s private information out of moral conviction. This includes circumstances where the healthcare provider feels that a patient’s condition presents a health risk to a client’s partner or identifiable contacts, such as if the client is HIV-infected (Beltran-Aroca et al., 2016). While withholding the information puts the client’s contacts at health risk, disclosure may cause significant psychological distress to the client due to issues such as stigma.

Considering that releasing the client’s personal health information may result in psychological stress to the client, disclosure would breach the principle of non-maleficence (Tarzian, 2015). Additionally, while autonomy demands that the client reserves the right to decide whether the information is released, justice requires that the healthcare provider holds the private information of every client in confidence (Beltran-Aroca et al., 2016). However, serving the client’s interests may present significant harm to both the partner and other identifiable contacts of the client who may contract the medical condition, delay in seeking timely intervention in case they are already exposed, and put even more individuals at risk. As such, acting based on beneficence (disclosing client information) serves the well-being of the majority (the partner, identifiable contacts, and the healthcare provider) (Tarzian, 2015). Disclosing the information in such a situation is the best action since it serves to protect the majority.

Refusal of treatment

The other issue that has recently become a major source of ethical dilemmas is the refusal of treatment by clients. With the rising incidence of chronic diseases, the need for life-sustaining treatment and care is on the rise. However, clients occasionally decline treatment even though the healthcare provider thinks it is essential (Wilkinson, Barclay, & Savulescu, 2018). Clients may refuse treatment if it involves a procedure that may be extremely necessary but invasive to the client. For example, a patient with the suspected prostate disease may reject a provider-prescribed digital rectal exam even though the procedure is an essential clinical assessment. Refusal of treatment has also been witnessed in cases where patients refuse a blood transfusion, usually for religious reasons. Considering that any form of healthcare offered to a client requires the client’s informed consent (Wilkinson et al., 2018), the healthcare provider is obliged to comply with the client’s wishes.

According to the ethical principle of autonomy, the healthcare provider needs to be willing to withhold treatment if a patient declines to receive it. While it is appropriate to observe autonomy, the healthcare provider needs to establish that the client is competent to make such a decision (Harpwood, 2016). Competence in the ethical sense means that the client adequately understands the consequences of not receiving the treatment, in which case the healthcare has to support the decision (Harpwood, 2016). Caring for a competent client who has refused treatment is guided by the principle of beneficence. While some interventions may not have obvious alternatives, the healthcare provider should strive to offer alternative options to the client as much as possible alongside ancillary services. For example, the option of blood products should be presented in the case of the client who rejects blood transfusion.

Waiting Lists

Following the rise in the incidence of life-threatening conditions that require interventions beyond the treatment capacity and service delivery rate of healthcare organizations, waiting lists have become inevitable. Interventions such as organ transplants and clinical trials of novel drugs for rare but life-threatening illnesses such as cancers are examples of clinical conditions in which waitlists are most common (Dalal, 2015). Since healthcare delivery in the clinical setting tends to be offered on a priority basis, it is not uncommon to find clients who have waited for a long time and are due for organ donation being skipped in favor of new but critically ill clients (Dalal, 2015). In such a scenario, the healthcare provider decides to offer the organ to the acutely ill client to whom the intervention is lifesaving, at the expense of the long-term client whose condition may deteriorate or decompensate if they have to stay longer on the waiting list.

It is noteworthy that the ethical problem of waitlists results from a scarcity of resources, such as organ shortage, a situation that may be out of the healthcare provider’s control. Considering that healthcare providers are obliged to fairly allocate available resources such as on a first-come, first-served basis, waiting list irregularities amount to injustice (Dalal, 2015). However, the ethical principle of utility is also at play since consideration for intervention in the waitlist should be based on offering maximum benefit to the community (Dalal, 2015). This means that multiple client characteristics, including age, prognosis, graft survival, and availability of alternative treatment options, need to be considered.

Since a client may be skipped on the waitlist due to any of these factors, it is only ethical to handle the matter with utmost dignity to the client. The decision to skip a client for a due intervention because of a logical reason, such as a poor projected survival rate, should be truthfully shared with the client in accordance with the principle of veracity (Dalal, 2015). This shows that the healthcare provider recognizes the client’s dignity and autonomy. Otherwise, justice and utility should guide all kinds of resource allocation.

Overall, healthcare problems and the ethical dilemmas they present vary from one client to another. As such, no one ethical principle can effectively offer the same solutions to all ethical dilemmas. Just like in the above ethical problems of privacy and confidentiality, refusal of treatment, and waiting list irregularities, solutions require a careful balance between benefits and interests. Additionally, these ethical problems will either recur in new clients, or new problems will emerge. Healthcare providers, therefore, need to be open-minded in dealing with these ethical issues to maintain consistency of principle. Most importantly, client dignity should be paramount even when autonomy has to be compromised.


Beltran-Aroca et al. (2016). Confidentiality breaches in clinical practice: what happens in hospitals? BMC medical ethics.

Dalal, A. R. (2015). Philosophy of organ donation: review of ethical facets. World journal of transplantation, 44–51.

Harpwood, V. (2016). Law and ethics in medicine. medicine, 619-622.

Tarzian, A. J. (2015). A code of ethics for health care ethics consultants: Journey to the present and implications for the field. The American Journal of Bioethics, 38-51.

Wilkinson, D., Barclay, S., & Savulescu, J. (2018). Disagreement, mediation, arbitration: resolving disputes about medical treatment. The Lancet, 2302-2305.

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health-care providers-managers-and administrators are faced with a variety of ethical issues

Assignment Details

Unit outcomes addressed in this Assignment:

  • Understand organizational management principles.

    Health care providers, managers, and administrators are faced with a variety of ethical issues.

    Health care providers, managers, and administrators are faced with a variety of ethical issues.

  • Apply organizational skills to healthcare settings.

Course outcomes addressed in this Assignment:

HS410-6: Evaluation and apply organization and management principles in healthcare settings.

GEL-1.02: Demonstrate college-level communication through the composition of original materials in Standard English.


Healthcare providers, managers, and administrators are faced with a variety of ethical issues. These issues range from right to life and abortion to right to die and physician assisted suicide. For this Assignment you will write an APA style paper addressing common ethical issues found in health care. Your paper should clearly identify a minimum of three ethical issues. Using the ethical decision making process located in Chapter 4 analyze each of the ethical issues you have identified.


  • 3–5 pages in length (not including cover and reference pages)
  • A minimum of three outside resources (one of these resources can be your textbook)
  • Your paper should be formatted according to APA, include a proper introduction, appropriate headings, and conclusion.

Submitting your work:

Submit your Assignment to the appropriate Dropbox.

To view your graded work, come back to the Dropbox or go to the Gradebook after your instructor has evaluated it. Make sure that you save a copy of your submitted work.

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