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Role of Ethics in Healthcare Leadership

Ethics and leadership are indivisible. For an individual to be an active leader, they must be ethical. Ralston and Schroeder (2015) define ethics as the values that dictate individual’s behaviors or way of doing things.

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Ethics influences the decisions that a leader makes, particularly when in a dilemma. An ethical leader makes decisions based on the best interest of their subordinates. Such a leader is selfless and always willing to set aside personal interests for the good of the cohorts. Ethics is paramount in the healthcare industry as practitioners encounter challenging circumstances involving patients. Numerous ethical principles guide decision-making in the healthcare sector. The two primary moral laws that are applicable in the healthcare industry are nonmaleficence and beneficence.

Ethical Principles

The principle of nonmaleficence is a significant component of Hippocratic moral teaching. According to Macklin (2015), nonmaleficence means not to harm (p. 14). Numerous theories explain the concept of harm from the healthcare perspective. Consequentialists hold that harm refers to anything, which results in less or prevents good. On the other hand, natural law ethicists refer to harm as anything that contravenes people’s rational nature and constrains their potential.

Anything that deteriorates the health condition of a patient can be termed as harm. A challenge arises in determining what constitutes harm in the medical field since the majority of the treatment procedures involve distress and pain. Macklin (2015) claims that harm may arise in different ways in the healthcare sector. For instance, failure by the administration to supervise operations may result in inefficient service delivery, which might affect patients. In healthcare, leaders apply the principle of nonmaleficence in formulation and implementation of policies. They avoid implementing policies that may bar patients from accessing vital healthcare services.

Ralston and Schroeder (2015) allege, “the principle of beneficence demands a level of altruism that is absent from simply refraining from harm” (p. 1085). In other words, beneficence does not only entail avoiding harming other parties. Healthcare practitioners are obliged to engage in activities meant to assist patients. Beneficence is opposed to ethical egoism because it contributes to selfishness, which might be dangerous to healthcare.

The desire to help people drives individuals into joining medical professions. Zydziunaite, Lepaite, and Souminen (2013) posit that health care differs from other career fields concerning universal morality. Society expects healthcare professionals to exercise beneficent acts, failure to which, they are regarded as careless. The principle of beneficence influences decision-making amid healthcare leaders. They endeavor to equip staff with requisite skills as a measure to guarantee quality services.

Application of Principles

Healthcare administrators use the principle of nonmaleficence to resolve challenges associated with service delivery. They are supposed to ensure that healthcare facilities offer necessary treatment without aggravating patient’s suffering. Administrators make sure that professionals with relevant levels of training and skills provide healthcare services. Moreover, they formulate policies that safeguard patient’s dignity and physical health. Gabel (2013) avers, “Nonmaleficence is complicated when advanced technology is part of the regimen” (p. 57).

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Healthcare leaders use the principle of nonmaleficence to resolve challenges attributed to euthanasia. They evaluate the patient’s condition and the extent of suffering before making a decision. The majority of the healthcare professionals prefer withholding treatment to withdrawing it at a later stage if the patient does not improve. They argue that pulling out therapy is more harmful to a patient than withholding it.

Striking a balance between potential harm and institutional profit is a daunting task to managers. Leaders use the principle of beneficence to resolve challenges attributed to harmonizing costs and benefits in a healthcare institution. They ensure that organizations earn a substantial profit and offer services that are not too costly to patients. It enables the administrators to substantiate their decisions to both the public and hospital’s board.

According to Gabel (2013), leaders cannot guarantee that employees will observe kind deeds. Healthcare administrators use the principle of beneficence to resolve this challenge. They create a working environment that discourages maleficence. The leaders treat employees with respect. In return, health workers handle patients with compassion.

Incorporation of Principles in my Career

As a future leader, I will be required to apply the principles of nonmaleficence and beneficence to resolve problems affecting employees. One of the areas where I will be needed to use the law of nonmaleficence is in dealing with issues attributed to employee layoffs. Zydziunaite et al. (2013) argue that layoff results in professional and personal harm on the affected staff. To mitigate the situation, I will ensure that I continuously communicate with the concerned workers.

Moreover, I will endeavor to support individuals who lose their jobs. On the other hand, I will use the principle of beneficence to address challenges associated with employee motivation. I will make an effort to promote employees’ self-esteem. I will also involve employees in decision-making. It will go a long way towards ensuring that they discharge their duties with compassion and vigor.


Ethical behaviors are paramount in the healthcare industry. Leaders must observe moral principles in decision-making to avert patient suffering. Two central policies that influence decision-making in the healthcare industry are nonmaleficence and beneficence. They ensure that employees do not engage in practices, which might harm patients. Leadership does not entail issuing commands to subordinates. It requires consulting and considering the interests of all stakeholders in decision-making.


Gabel, S. (2013). Transformational leadership and healthcare. Medical Science Educator, 23(1), 55-60.

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Macklin, R. (2015). Can one do good medical ethics without principles? Journal of Medical Ethics, 41(1), 12-31.

Ralston, S., & Schroeder, A. (2015). Doing more vs. doing good: Aligning our ethical principles from personal to the societal. The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, 169(12), 1085-1086.

Zydziunaite, V., Lepaite, D., & Souminen, T. (2013). Leadership styles in ethical dilemmas when head nurses make decisions. International Nursing Review, 60(2), 288-335.

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