Given this scenario among certain cultures, it is thus also of importance for a healthcare professional to understand that paternalism may also be exercised by certain societies. However, the provision of a healthcare professional with regards to allowing the patient or the patient’s family to decide on a medical treatment decreases the likelihood of paternalism or misuse of power. It can also be helpful that a healthcare professional suggests to the patient’s family, regardless of their ethnicity, to discuss the condition of the patient with the patient himself.
It is important for the healthcare professional to understand that suggesting this option is different from obliging the family to perform the action. It is also important and helpful if the healthcare professional explains to the family of the patient that not disclosing the actual ailment to the patient himself is an exercise of paternalism or misuse of power. In addition, this non-disclosure of medical information by the family to the patient himself is also an act of deception and that the family members may later feel guilty that they never made the effort to disclose and to discuss the illness of the patient at any given time.
Paternalism and misuse of power can be prevented in the healthcare field if the traditional course of relationships between the physician and patient is somehow modified so that the patient will be allowed to receive any information regarding his illness (Grill and Hansson, (2005). In addition, paternalism and misuse of power can be prevented by a healthcare professional if he suggests to the family members of the patient to allow the patient himself to decide on what course of action to take for treatment of his condition.
It will also be beneficial if the healthcare professional mentions to the family members of the patient that he is aware and respects the beliefs, principles and morals of their culture of the patient and his family, but as a healthcare professional, it is more important that the best kind of healthcare service be delivered to the patient. In addition, the comfort, care and healing of the patient is the top priority of the healthcare professional and the family of the patient should understand that deception through withholding medical diagnoses and information from the patient is not the best way to conduct this.
There may be certain cases wherein both the patient and the head of the family are incompetent in understanding the medical condition of the patient. In such situations, the head of the family delegates the responsibility of making a decision on the healthcare professional. In order to prevent the exercise of medical paternalism or misuse of power, it is best that the healthcare professional provides a simple yet complete explanation of the current condition of the patient.
In addition, the healthcare professional should also explain any associated implications of the medical condition. All medical treatment options should also be enumerated and discussed. If the healthcare professional is asked to decide for the incompetent patient and family, then the healthcare professional should explain why he himself has chosen a certain treatment option. The patient, as well as the family of the patient may present a passive stance to this discussion and immediately approve and accept the healthcare professional’s decisions.
However, it is important to understand that in this particular case, paternalism or misuse of power is not in effect anymore, because the patient or the family, which represents the patient himself, is already aware of the medical condition and the treatment that will be conducted by the healthcare professional. When a healthcare professional, after directly discussing the condition and treatment with the head of the household, is asked to disclose all the medical information to the patient himself, this can be treated as an informed consent that is given by the head of the family and not the patient.
The course of disclosure of information is now the opposite, because the head of the family is the individual who asks the physician to approach the patient and deliver the actual diagnosis and prognosis of the patient. This action is thus a preventive measure against paternalism and misuse of power because the patient will receive news regarding his personal medical condition. It is unfortunate to see that there are many patients who do not know of their actual illness and most of the time, they are even unaware that they are dying.
As a healthcare professional, the physician should always be aware of actions that support paternalism and misuse of power. As long as the patient is competent enough to receive news of his medical condition, as well as amenable to such disclosures based on his cultural background, the healthcare professional should always provide any information that is associated with the medical condition.
A healthcare professional should also always keep in mind that every patient has the right to choose which medical option to take with regards to his medical condition. The strongest reason behind this principle is that it is his life that is at stake and that he himself will experience any suffering or improvement as the course of his disease progresses. The cultural background of the patient should also be accepted and respected by a healthcare professional, yet this should not be a hindrance to the healthcare services that a physician should deliver.
In case wherein Eastern culture is the dominant principle that is followed by the patient, then the healthcare professional should be aware that there are certain norms that have to be followed in order to get the message across that a decision has to be made with regards to the specific treatment option that will be performed on the patient. Paternalism and misuse of power are social phenomena that have existed for several thousands of years. In the healthcare field, medical paternalism is often observed among physicians and patients, as well as among family members of the patient.
There is still room for designing preventive measures against medical paternalism and this can be initiated by the healthcare professional through a number of ways. References Alverson, H. S. , Drake, R. E. , Carpenter-Song, E. A. , Chu, E. , Ritsema, M. and Smith, B. (2007). Ethnocultural variations in mental illness discourse: Some implications for building therapeutic alliances. Psychiatric Services, 58, 1541-1546. Deegan, P. E. , and Drake, R. E. (2006). Shared decision making and medication management in the recovery process. Psychiatric Services, 57, 1636-1639. Glasgow, N. (2008).
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