With great responsibility comes greater reward. The field of healthcare is financially rewarding, but, at the same time, it is also ridden with a number of legal and ethical challenges for healthcare professionals.
Compounding things further, the use of technology in healthcare has increased, making the role of a healthcare professional more complex.
Even the slightest negligence on part of healthcare professionals can wreak havoc on the patients and their well-being.
Patient safety and security should be the top priority of all healthcare professionals out there.
The healthcare industry is faced with its own set of legal obstacles and ethical dilemmas, neglecting which, the healthcare professionals can endanger their own careers.
Difference between Ethical and Legal Responsibilities
Legal responsibilities differ from ethical formalities. Legal responsibilities are strictly implemented by the state upon the citizens. Breaking these legal rules amounts to violations and crimes.
One such crime is the mistreatment of seniors at nursing homes. If you or a senior in your family has faced nursing home abuse, you should immediately retain a nursing home abuse law firm to represent you in a legal lawsuit.
On the other hand, ethical responsibilities are neither imposed by a state nor do they have any legal consequences for the citizens. Ethical responsibilities are voluntary acts that a person performs based on their own perceptions of right versus wrong.
Top Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare
1. Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing homes are meant to provide residential facilities coupled with medical and non-medical care to elderly people. The nursing home staff may resort to mistreatment and negligence towards certain residents at the nursing home.
This kind of neglect or mistreatment has legal consequences.
Nursing home abuse law firms especially take on these cases to deal with issues related to nursing home abuse. Nursing home staff should also be mindful of their duties and responsibilities towards the patients so as to avoid any sort of litigation.
2. Non-Compliance with HIPAA
Health Insurance Probability and Accountability Act compels all healthcare facilities and departments to protect the private information and medical history of every patient.
Failure to comply with the act can have legal repercussions for healthcare professionals. Technological development in the field of healthcare has resulted in increased violations of HIPAA.
Since most patients are treated using some technological medical equipment and their medical history and records are stored on digital devices, the threat of a cyberattack that could hack these systems and retrieve sensitive patient data is now greater than before.
All healthcare facilities must ensure that they have competent IT professionals on their teams to protect patient information from getting hacked through the use of robust cybersecurity.
Disclosure of private information of patients due to the negligence of a physician or a healthcare facility can lead to the cancellation of the physician’s practicing license or to the closure of the medical facility.
3. Medical Malpractice
Malpractice in the field of healthcare can have especially dire consequences for the patients. Any physician or medical facility found guilty of malpractice should face strict legal action.
If a physician is negligent in providing care, the patient can go ahead and sue the practitioner and have his license revoked.
Medical malpractice involves many other violations other than negligence or causing deliberate harm to a patient.
Prescribing patients with unnecessary medicine all to curry favors and obtain rewards and benefits from pharmaceutical companies is a heinous example of medical malpractice. The act is legally criminal and a practitioner could face serious consequences for being involved in such activities.
4. Flaws in Telemedicine
Improvements in technology coupled with the lockdowns during COVID-19 have led to the development of the field of telemedicine.
Telemedicine involves seeking medical advice or diagnosis from a physician by means of some technological devices. The telemedicine trend has benefitted both patients and healthcare professionals.
However, these advantages came appended with certain legal hoops and challenges. For example, a medical practitioner cannot offer advice to patients who reside in another country where the practitioner doesn’t hold a license to practice.
You can seek legal assistance from a physician who holds a valid license to practice medicine in the state where you reside.
5. Lack of Informed Consent
The first and foremost ethical responsibility of a doctor or a hospital is to assure informed consent. A patient has the right to thoroughly understand the procedure of treatment and the associated risks involved.
Any healthcare facility not respecting the patients’ right to consent or not will face legal consequences. The law entails that the patients reserve the right to know about the various treatments concerning them. Getting informed consent is a huge ethical responsibility that healthcare professionals must always fulfill before taking a course of action.
6. Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide
The legalization of physician-assisted suicide has become a hotly debated question. Physician-assisted suicide is the process of ending the life of a patient who is going through some long-term illness with the medical assistance of a physician.
Most people consider it to be an unethical act. They argue that the role of a healthcare professional is to heal the patients instead of providing assistance in a suicidal act.
A patient who is terminally ill can often find his illness as a source of financial and psychological burden on his family and can be inclined toward taking his own life. However, there can be no definitive answer to this debate, the fact remains that it poses healthcare professionals with a huge ethical dilemma.
The healthcare profession is demanding but hugely rewarding. The work can be non-stop and the commitment to perfection is absolute. Even a minor mistake or decision may lead to healthcare professionals risking the lives of their patients. Every step and every decision should be taken with utmost responsibility. You should have a sense of moral and ethical standards. However, there are certain actions that are not only wrong in and of themselves but lead to legal consequences. It is important for a healthcare professional to receive the right training in tenets of healthcare ethics.