Patient Confidentiality: Betraying Trust or Providing Good Care?
The Ethical Implications of a Breach of Confidentiality
According to Lawrence (2007, p. 36), “patient confidentiality is critical in every nursing practice”. This fact explains why “caregivers should understand the circumstances and situations under which confidentially can be broken” (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011, p. 39). Patient confidentiality is critical because it safeguards the rights of different people. Nurses and medical practitioners should take the best precautions whenever supporting their patients. Any breach of confidentiality can affect the entire medical process. This “malpractice will undermine the relationships established between patients and their caregivers” (Lawrence, 2007, p. 38).
Doctors should expose their patients’ health data or information. Any attempt “to disclose such information will result in hatred, discrimination, or self-denial” (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011, p. 52). The patient might also become embarrassed and fail to get the required medical attention. This situation explains why “many societies have unique healthcare policies and ethical standards” (Lawrence, 2007, p. 37).
According to Lawrence (2007, p. 37), “any breach of confidentially discourages patients from getting the best treatment”. Managers should encourage their nurses and caregivers to use the best nursing theories and models. This approach will safeguard the rights of different patients. Several ethical theories promote the concept of patient confidentially. This concept can improve the healthcare system of every country.
Supporting the Above Position Using Different Ethical Principles
Several theories and ethical principles explain why nurses should be ready to protect their patients. Nurse Practitioners (NPs) should also maintain the highest level of trust and confidentiality. Deontology is a powerful principle that compels caregivers to respect the rights of their patients. The principle promotes the best duties and obligations. Nurses should focus on their obligations and expectations. The model makes it easier for nurses to act ethically. The second principle is “virtue ethics”. This theory encourages individuals to promote their moral character and virtues. This “theory supports different virtues such as honesty, truth-telling, and kindness” (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011, p. 65). These virtues encourage nurses to support the health demands of their patients.
Patient confidentiality gets much support from consequentialist ethics. This principle guides individuals to act ethically to get the best outcomes. The “premise of this principle is that caregivers should maximize the greatest good for the largest number of individuals” (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011, p. 72). Consequentialism encourages caregivers to promote the health outcomes of their patients. NPs can achieve this goal by promoting the concept of patient confidentiality.
Alternative to Address the Dilemma Presented in the Article
The article “Betraying Trust or Providing Good Care: When Is It Okay to Break Confidentiality?” explores the ethical issues associated with different medical decisions. The article goes further to examine “why confidentiality may be broken in an attempt to offer the best medical support” (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011, p. 54). Hathaway has diagnosed Andrea with a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) called Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This asymptomatic STD is capable of causing cervical cancer (Nathanson, 2000). Carol Hathaway should inform Andrea about the issues and complications associated with HPV. This approach will ensure the patient embraces the best treatment methods.
Hathaway should ensure every teacher understands the problem facing the targeted learning institution. She should not disclose Andrea’s situation. This approach will protect Andrea’s rights and eventually support the health needs of every student. Hathaway should also inform Andrea’s parents indirectly. She can inform them about the treatment regimens that will deal with the disease. The important thing is to support Andrea’s health demands without disclosing her condition (Nathanson, 2000). Hathaway should also encourage the learning institution to take necessary measures against the disease.
Approaching the Dilemma Using Ethical Theories, Principles: A Collaborative Approach to Ethical Decision-Making
The dilemma presented in the above article calls for appropriate ethical principles and theories. Carol Hathaway should involve different individuals in the decision-making process. Hathaway should ensure Andrea is part of the decision-making process. Consequentialism encourages Nurse Practitioners (NPs) to focus on the greatest outcomes. This approach will ensure Hathaway involves Andrea’s parents in the decision-making process (Lawrence, 2007).
Hathaway should inform Andrea’s parents without disclosing her condition. The teachers and managers of Andrea’s school should also be part of the decision-making process. These “managers will ensure every student gets the right medical attention” (Lawrence, 2007, p. 36). The practice will also encourage the community to deal with the challenges associated with this STD. Deontology theory “encourages every nurse to focus on the existing rules, duties, and regulations” (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011, p. 79). The theory will ensure Hathaway supports her patients without breaking the initial confidentiality agreement.
According to Lawrence (2007, p. 39), “principalism is a useful framework applied in different healthcare settings”. This model focuses on several aspects that promote the best health outcomes. Some of these aspects include “justice, beneficence, and autonomy” (Lawrence, 2007, p. 37).
The theory encourages doctors and nurses to make accurate decisions depending on the targeted health problems. This framework “provides the best means for integrating various factors and making the best decisions” (Lawrence, 2007, p. 38). The framework has the potential to deal with the above dilemma. The model will ensure every student gets the best medical support from Hathaway’s medical facility (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011). The principle will also encourage every stakeholder to participate in the ethical decision-making process.
Lawrence, D. (2007). The Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics: A Foundation for Current Bioethical Debate. Journal of Chiropractic Humanities, 1(1), 34-40.
Nathanson, P. (2000). Betraying Trust or Providing Good Care? When is it Okay to Break Confidentiality? Web.
Purtilo, R., & Doherty, R. (2011). Ethical Dimensions in the Health Profession. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders.