Medical Personnel are usually governed by several codes of conducts, before they can start practicing there is generally one main code of medical ethics which they must sign and pledge to abide by. This code is known as principles of medical ethics, usually given after qualification of the studies during graduation and just before one is allowed to practice (Bruckman, 2008). This medical code of ethics is governed by six principles that include Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence, Justice, Dignity and Honesty (Brody, 1988). The principle of beneficence states that a medical practitioner shall at all times undertake actions in good faith and in the best interest of the patient in mind. In Latin autonomy principle is described as voluntas aegroti suprema lex, which states that patients have the liberty to choose treatment of their choice or decline such treatment. Finally, non-maleficence principle is a motto that urges medical professionals to uphold moral values and simply means “first, do no harm” (Veatch, 1988). In this paper our case scenario analysis will be based on these major principles of medical ethics.
The case scenario example requires a nurse to determine three patients that should receive ICU care and in the process lock one patient out of accessing the ICU services. A very similar situation to this case scenario dilemma is the Mrs. Washington case of conflicting duties that requires her to choose between two health programs that are equally crucial in saving lives. Whichever choice that Mrs. Washington makes it is clear that lives will be lost; if adolescent program is denied funds for instance, increased morbidity that will translate to high mortality rate will occur. On the other hand scrapping of catastrophic assistance services might lead to immediate high mortality rates.
This is an ethical dilemma because Mrs. Washington is aware of the implications of cutting funds for any of these two programs since she is a medical professional in charge of a hospice. The decision is more complicated by the fact that she has no criteria of determining which program should be suspended. The ethical principles that are central to this case are therefore similar to those in our case scenario example and include principles of justice and beneficence.
The medical principle that mostly applies to this scenario is that of justice which is concerned with fair distribution and allocation of scarce medical resources equally among needy patients (Epstein, 2009). But the criteria of fair distribution and equality in distributing health resources is left to the medical professional to decide and will not be of help to the circumstances of the case scenario since eventually a choice must be made. Besides, the principle of beneficence is mutually exclusive with the principle of justice in this case. This is because the principle of beneficence will require Mrs. Washington to act and base her decisions on the best interests of the patient, which in this case is provision of health services to patients in both programs without discriminating. The principle of justice demands fair distribution which is impossible under the circumstances because the requirement is to choose one program for funding and not distribute resources.