Sample Essay On Ethical Duty:
Affirmation of Confidentiality is one of the main reasons that drive patients into disclosing delicate personal information. The ethical principle of confidentiality existing within the physician-patient relationship protects patient’s genetic information. Nevertheless, confidentiality is not absolute (Peshkin& Burke, 2007). Mrs. Joan Smith has breast/ovarian cancer and does not want to share the information with her family members. On the other hand, there is one in two chances that her sister also has the cancer. As both are patients at the clinic, their interests have to be upheld. From an ethical point of view, the nurse has the responsibility not to disclose Mrs. Joan Smith’s medical condition to any person. However, there is an at-risk family member whose health status is also a priority.
Disclosing patient information may have various implications including; fine imposition, disciplinary procedure by the nursing regulatory statute, or even disciplinary action by the clinics management to the nurse. Maintaining patient confidentiality encourages the patient seeking medical care to be honest and increases the willingness of a patient to seek medical attention. Confidentiality also assures the patient that stigmatizing information such as sexual, public health or even terminal disease information is not disclosed to another party without their consent (Offit et al., 2004). Medical clinics also have policies that protect patient’s information and health care team members who have access to the information are obliged to keep patient confidentiality. Considering all this factors, the nurse would be inclined to keep Mrs. Joan’s information from her family members.
As much as medical records are private, failure to warn at-risk family members about genetic illnesses would endanger their lives. Furthermore, the nurse has the ethical responsibility to act in the best interest of Mrs. Joan’s sister. With a fifty percent risk probability, it would only be wise to inform her of the Mrs. Joan’s condition. Assuming that the nurse told Mrs. Joan’s sister about her sister's condition, the physician-patient relationship would be jeopardized (Peshkin& Burke, 2007). Nonetheless, this information would be a potential life saver for Mrs. Joan’s sister. With the plan to increase surveillance of this type of cancer, the nurse is under a duty to screen the at-risk family member for the cancer since she is a client in the same hospital.
In this case, the nurse is supposed to disclose Mrs. Joan’s condition to her uninformed sister only after considering the following. First, the nurse should make reasonable efforts to get consent from Mrs. Joan for her to disclose the information. Secondly, ascertain that the withheld information could avert harm if disclosed to the patient’s sister. Thirdly, the nurse should take precautions and ensure that only genetic information that is needed for diagnosis of the cancer is disclosed, and no other unrelated information about the patient is disclosed. Whereas theses guideline set out circumstances for which the nurse would be obliged to disclose the patient’s information, it is not a duty that the nurse has to perform (Offit et al., 2004).
In this scenario, the nurse is in a prime position to satisfy both patients. Mrs. Joan’s sister is a patient of the clinic too. Since there are plans to increase surveillance of the cancer, the nurse should schedule a meeting with Mrs. Joan’s sister and advise her to get screened for the cancer. This is because apart from disclosing the information to the sister, there is other means to detect the disease. The plan to increase surveillance is the best reason the nurse would give to Mrs. Joan’s sister to convince her to get screened for the cancer. If the sister does not see the need or urgency to get screened, then the nurse has the obligation to inform her about Mrs. Joan’s condition. Breast/ovarian cancer are a serious condition and there is no reason enough for the nurse not to inform Mrs. Joan’s sister about the condition if Mrs. Joan herself does not.
Offit, K., Groeger, E., Turner, S., Wadsworth, E. A., & Weiser, M. A. (2004).The duty to warn a patient's family members about hereditary disease risks. Jama, 292(12), 1469-1473.
Peshkin B& Burke W. (2007).Bioethics of genetic testing for hereditary breast cancer. In: Isaacs C, Rebbeck TR, editors. Hereditary Breast Cancer. Informa Healthcare. New York: McGraw hill, 35–51.