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Clinical Ethics, Business Ethics and the Law in a Health Care Organization


The phenomenon of ethics is a big concern in the health care sector. A lot of efforts and literature have been directed towards clinical ethics. However, there are other forms of ethics, which are of great importance and have attracted little attention. These include business ethics, legal/law ethics, research ethics, and faith-based ethics among others. This has triggered the emergence of an ethics gap in the health care system. In general, ethics are termed as the discipline that deals with the behavior, good and bad, directed towards others. In health care organizations, ethics provides the guiding principle and standards of care delivery (Morrison, and Monagle, 2009). This paper seeks to examine the co-existence of clinical ethics, business ethics, and law in health care organizations.

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Clinical Ethics

Health care systems are always faced with clinical issues about different dimensions like life-sustaining treatment, conflicts between medical practitioners, and families/guardians of patients among others. These issues are attributed to medical policies, technologies, and treatment. In addition, these issues have ethical implications. Clinical ethics is responsible for overlooking the ethical implications arising from the medical policies, technologies, and treatments with an emphasis on determining what needs to be done or not done in the health care delivery (Morrison, and Monagle, 2009).

Clinical ethics are based on the following four aspects namely medical indications, patient’s preference, quality of life, and contextual features. In medical indication, all the contents about the clinical discussion of the patient’s condition are detailed. Notably, medication indication pertains to the relationship existing between the patient’s condition and the diagnosis, as well as the

treatment involved. Apart from the medical details, it can be noted that clinical ethics cover the goals and purpose of the interventions indicated. For instance, for a patient with a burn, the medical indication required is the diagnosis based on the degree and the gravity of the burn. It will also be based on options for treatment coupled with its risks, benefits, and outcome. In each incident, there are issues regarding the objectives and prospects of the patient. In the case where the patient is mentally incapacitated, the things to consider are who has authority on the patient’s behalf and the limitation of the authority ethically and legally (Morrison and Monagle, 2009).

Concerning life quality, any illness/injury threatens to reduce the quality of life for patients. All curative mediations seek to reestablish, recover or preserve life quality. Patients with mental capacity are ethically and legally empowered to make decisions regarding life quality. Apart from the contextual features, all patients usually hope that medical practitioners will help correct their problems. However, this is based on contextual features such as the individual, institutional, social and financial arrangements (Morrison and Monagle, 2009).

Business Ethics

Currently, the health care sector both public and private is regarded as one of the biggest businesses. To run such a business requires enhanced decisions made by the respective executives and board members. Therefore, high ethical standards are a necessity to the health care practitioners particularly executives in their role as health care providers, employers, as well as community service. Business ethics champions the role of corporate health care leaders in valuing health care delivery. Similar to other organizations, health care reflects the character and values of its leaders. The main primary role of business ethics is to ensure the efficient delivery of health care services. Moreover, business ethics are aimed at reducing liability risk using institutional practices (Weber, 2001).

Business ethics are involved in recognizing the values and goods based on judgments made on personal rights and self-interest, organizations’ interests, and the larger public. Additionally, these values are arranged based on their significance and priority in addressing the organization’s conflicts. Most of the conflict involves employees and the organization that affects the overall health care delivery. In addition, the conflict between patients with the institution and physicians exist. These conflicts are triggered by factors that are cost-related amongst others. These highly affect the balance of cost care and care quality (Weber, 2001).

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Notably, the law is a precursor in the operations of organizations. The law is defined as the social rules that are established and enforceable for either conductive or non-conductive. These social rules govern all the other aspects of health care organizations and their violation usually attracts criminal/civil liability. Ethics and law have elaborate resemblances, especially in their functionality. They are termed as sharing the mandate of creating as well as maintaining social goodness. Ethics is considered to start where the law culminates. This is attributed to the fact that ethical norms are derived from the law. The two main formalities of law in the health care system include informed consent and the standards of care (Pozgar, 2012).

Regarding informed consent, the provision of health care starts after the issuance of informed consent by the patient or an authorized legal surrogate in the case where the patients are unable. In both cases where the patient and the surrogate are available, the law issues consent on the patient’s behalf with the assumption that the patient would have consented to the treatment. The information upon which patients consent is required pertains to the nature of the treatment, anticipated results, potential risks, treatment benefits, ad treatment alternatives. All this information should be presented in a form that the patient comprehends. Additionally, a patient’s informed consent should be voluntary based (Pozgar, 2012).

Relative to clinical ethics, informed consent is viewed as an interactive process with the patient rather than a formality meant to get the patient’s approval. On the other hand, informed consent is viewed as a state of mind from the legal perspective, that is, understanding the contents to reach an informed decision. Based on the standard of care, the law stipulates the appropriate standard of care that the health care providers should deliver. The law expects healthcare providers to employ the required know-how, equipment, and judgment while undertaking patient’s treatment. The law empowers patients to raise the issue whenever the treatment is not delivered properly leading to injuries (Pozgar, 2012).


Health care organizations cannot exist in the absence of ethics. Ethics sets the principles and standards upon which medical practitioners and patients follow. Ethical knowledge serves to manifest the facts in a manner that produces the desired results at the same time preserving selected values. The above ethical dimensions co-exist in a health care setup. Clinical ethics serves to ensure appropriate guidelines are installed in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. In the case of business ethics, ethics provides guidelines regarding how, by whom, and where health care is to be delivered. Finally, the law sets the limits for which both practitioners and patients should follow. Although there is a substantial gap between these forms of ethics, they coexist in health care.


Morrison, E.E., & Monagle, J.F. (2009). Health care ethics: Critical issues for the 21st century. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Pozgar, G. D. (2012). Legal aspects of health care administration. Sudbury, Mass: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Weber, L. J. (2001). Business ethics in healthcare: Beyond compliance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

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