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Applying Ethical Principles in Healthcare


Modern medical field requires new, high-quality ways of treating patients, considering the objective moral code. In everyday medical practice, the workers and the employees must know of and follow four fundamental principles of Health Care Ethics: autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice. First, autonomy suggests that every medical professional should allow the patient to retain control over their body. Besides, it is known as moral obligation and respect for persons (Legge, 2020). Second, beneficence demonstrates doctors being obligated to work in the best interests of patients and research subjects. Such respectful treatment may be achieved by providing continuing education for the hospitalized people. Third, nonmaleficence is a particular term that defines the rule of not inflicting any harm on the patient. The last principle is justice, which is treating patients equally and respect for morally acceptable laws. These rules are specifically made to regulate medical professionals’ practice and help them in ethical decision-making process.

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Overview of the Case Study

In the case study the main character is E. L. Straight who is director of clinical services at Hopewell Hospital. Dr. Cutrite is a quite well-known surgeon in the hospital, who is famous for his brilliant surgeries in the past. However, he has slipped physically and mentally over the years, and Straight is contemplating taking steps to recommend a reduction in his privileges. Whereas such procedure takes a practically long time and the process is not complete, the doctor continues to perform a full range of procedures. During the development of the story, the readers realize that Dr. Cutrite left a plastic needle protector from a disposable syringe in a patient’s stomach. The supervisor said that the syringe was among the items in a used surgical pack. E. L. Straight suggested putting the aforementioned patient, Mrs. Jameson, to go back into surgery. He did not plan on actually explaining to her that they were going to look for the needle cover. The unfortunate event was that she had already left the hospital. Moreover, the guilty doctor Cutrite would not consider Mrs. Jameson there might be a problem and called her back to the hospital, while the chief of surgery said there was no promise that there would not be any consequences of such negligence.

Analysis of Ethical Issues in the Case Study

To begin with, the main ethical dilemma of E. L. Straight was rather to listen to a rather politically powerful member of the hospital or to follow the principle of non-maleficence. In this scenario, Dr. Cutrite is the one who represents the well-being of the member of staff, the employer, obviously willing to preserve his reputation and the place of work. Indeed, going against the oldest member of the hospital might have put Straight in a highly inconvenient situation. On the contrary, if Straight does not stand out and somehow disobey the surgeon, he will not risk losing his position in any way. Nevertheless, as a medical professional, he has to pay attention to anything that could potentially hurt the patient.

Using the Ethical Decision-Making Model to Analyze the Case Study

To analyze the given situation from the viewpoint of morality, it is essential to refer to the present ethical decision-making model. Initially, it is crucial to recognize the existence of an ethical dilemma and a pathway to establish a need for an ethical decision. E. L. Straight, the person obliged to make a choice, realizes that his future name and reputation depend on his decision. On the contrary, he knows there is a small-scale chance of unhealthy consequences for Mrs. Jameson if the surgeons do not take the needle cover out of the patient’s body. After the moral dilemma goes the moral judgment, which can be influenced by multiple different individual and organizational variables, such as cognitive biases, group pressure, a code of conduct or standards of behavior, et cetera. In the particular case study, the political power of Dr. Cutrite, the reputation of the hospital, the principles of ethical medicine affect E. L. Straight’s judgment. It goes to show how dependent people working in medicine usually are. In addition, the last aspect of the decision-making model is ethical behavior that is based on ideas what is morally good or bad (Legge, 2020). The dilemma in question is supposed to be solved by the students.

Effectiveness of Communication Approaches in the Case Study

In the study, E. L. Straight did not manage to communicate well with the patient due to her leaving the hospital, not knowing about the incident. Such carelessness demonstrates how significant it is for surgeons to build trust with the hospitalized person whose well-being depends on them. The failure in good patient-and-doctor connection is caused by the decreasing quality of Dr. Cutrite’s mental and physical state. However, Straight still has a chance to follow a careful systematic approach to Mrs. Jameson to promote a healthy work environment (American College of Healthcare Executives, 2019). Therefore, the communication between the surgeon Cutrite and Mrs. Jameson was not effective because it is considered unprofessional to hide the real information about the results of performed surgeries from a patient.

Resolving the Ethical Dilemma by Applying Ethical Principles

Considering the aforementioned principles of ethics and the aspects of a decision-making model, it is still rather complicated to balance job requirements and subjective morality for the director E. L. Straight. However, American College of Healthcare Executives the importance of avoiding the improper exploitation of professional relationships for personal gain (2019). Therefore, if Straight wants to stay professional, do no harm, and respect his patient’s rights, he has to make Mrs. Jameson go to the hospital once more and be properly inspected on any health-related issues.


To sum up, this illustrative case study is a powerful example of the complex ethical dilemmas that medical professional have to often face in the workplace. Hence, the code of conduct and other morality principles help resolve such complicated justice-related issues.

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American College of Healthcare Executives. (2019). ACHE code of ethics.

Capella University (2018). NHS-FP4000 Exemplar Sample Ethical Case Study. Incident 9.

Legge, M. (2020). Ethics in medical laboratory practice. New Zealand Journal of Medical Laboratory Science, 74(2), 70-71.

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