The Ethical and Legal Aspects of Healthcare

Healthcare continuously developed due to a great need to preserve the life of mankind. As man evolves slowly into a more rational being, the legal and ethical aspects or issues of healthcare came about. Thus, healthcare is not just a mere preservation of life. Ethical aspects affect the decision-making process of healthcare professionals. There is the Kantian based principle called “duty-oriented reasoning,” which decides not to go for a decision that is “intrinsically” evil or wrong.

It is a “principled” rationalization. The next one is the “consequence oriented reasoning” which decides on the “act” itself if it’s good and the results of it. If the act to get the consequence is in itself bad, then it must be wrong. Third, is the “virtue-ethics reasoning” which is based on the deed that was done to decide the act. This decision is based on one’s virtue, for example, “bravery. ” (Edge, R. S. , Groves, J. R.). Along with the ethics part of healthcare comes out the legal aspects of it.

The awareness of man’s right to be treated and respected as a rational being greatly affects how healthcare will be done on him. “The widespread acceptance of human rights as the primary basis on which to build a civilized society has encouraged people to demand respect for themselves and their decisions, and to expect these demands to be met and vindicated. This does not deny medical practitioners the right to use their expertise, but it does allow individuals to take a central place in decisions about themselves and about their own healthcare.

” (McLean, S. , Mason, J. K. ). The Ethical and Legal Aspects of Healthcare To give a clear picture on how ethical and legal aspects of decision-making in healthcare are made, analyses of this scenario will be given: You are a paramedic arriving at an emergency scene. A group of scouts have entered a cave that is now filling with water. They were led into the cave by a rather large scoutmaster. Unfortunately, while leading them out of the cave, the scoutmaster somehow managed to get stuck in a narrow opening with only his head and shoulders protruding out.

With his upper torso stuck outside the cave, it appears the scoutmaster will survive, but all the boys below will drown if they cannot escape. After you have checked all possible escape routes and have attempted to extricate the scoutmaster, it becomes clear that the only way to save the boys is to sacrifice the scoutmaster, so he can be removed. This is, unfortunately, not the Winnie the Pooh story where Rabbit has the option of waiting until Pooh loses weight. What is the correct action for this case? Deciding based on duty-oriented reasoning; the boys will likely drown because the scoutmaster won’t get sacrificed.

This ethics justifies that there will be other ways to solve the problem, but not by doing an evil or wrong act, which is to hurt or sacrifice the big guy. Legally, this respects the body as sacred, and gives the right of the scoutmaster to equally live as the boys. Consequence oriented decision-making suggests that the scoutmaster must be sacrificed indeed to save the lives of the boys, because of the reason that a lot will die if the scoutmaster won’t be removed immediately. It decides based on the consequence and makes the scoutmaster just an object to be discarded to save the boys.

This is neglecting the human rights of the scoutmaster’s feelings and right to be saved. Virtue-ethics reasoning will have the scoutmaster be sacrificed, but on the basis of bravery and selflessness. The scoutmaster will die because he sees his role to save other lives aside from his. The problem is solved based on the deed done. His right to live here might be suppressed, but at this point the scoutmaster would’ve allowed himself to be sacrificed, thus allowing the paramedics to inflict pain on him or do something worse. His chivalry of saving lives this way is virtuous.

Based on the reasons given, all aspects are valid reasons, but one among them will come out to be the best. This is the dilemma which healthcare professionals face each day, especially in hospitals. There are cases everyday that they have to decide who dies and who lives; who gets treated first and who doesn’t, and a lot more. It looks like virtue-ethics based reasoning is the best ethical standard one should follow because the aim is virtuous. The least fatality with the best human rights consideration will ultimately be the best answer in every dilemma.


Edge, R. S., Groves, J. R. 1998. Ethics of Health Care. 2nd Ed. pp 25-29. August 15, 2008. [http://books. google. com. ph/books? id=a5kj25SlD64C&pg=PA29&lpg=PA29&dq=duty-oriented+reasoning++consequence+oriented+reasoning+virtue+ethics+reasoning&so urce=web&ots=HuFiD-ntbE&sig=RpjqCgPTvZ_TVBbxT9lZC9i3kLE&hl=tl&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPA25,M1].

McLean, S. , Mason, J. K. Legal and Ethical Aspects of Healthcare. August 15, 2008. [http://books. google. com/books? id=MTPDHR1JXWkC&pg=PA1&dq=ethics+and+legal+aspects+of+healthcare&lr=&sig=ACfU3U0UO8rYeZa4vijyNFglW0JpaBr6aw#PPR9, M1].

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