Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare

Last Updated: 06 Jan 2022
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Josh tests positive for hepatitis C. DR. Smith who ordered the labs is also Josh’s brother-in-law. When Dr. Smith informs Josh that his results will be reported to the public health department, asks Dr. Smith not to report him as a favor since they are family and he promises to get treatment somewhere else. Josh is embarrassed by the way he contracted the disease. Not only is Dr. Smith asked to break the law by his brother-in-law, his wife, Josh’s sister, who is concerned for her brother expects Dr. Smith to share the test results of his patient.

If he tells her anything without Josh’s consent he will violate HIPPA. Dr Smith is worried about being accused of malpractice if he gives in and doesn’t ensure Josh’s results are not only reported but also that he receives proper care for the diagnoses. This case is legally and ethically sensitive. The doctor faces issues with relationships, confidentiality, consent, legal requirements of treating communicable diseases, as well as malpractice. Legal and “Ethical issues in healthcare are common. Nearly every decision that’s made has ethical implications--for patients, for providers and for healthcare leaders.“ (Larson, 2013).

The first ethical violation that Dr. Smith is guilty of is having a personal relationship with a patient. “Relationships with patients are forbidden by both the medical and nursing code of ethics. Such actions are considered serious misconduct and can result in expulsion from the profession and losing the license to practice” (Greenwood, 2013). Because of the relationship with the patient, Dr. Smith is being asked to violate the patient’s confidentiality. “Confidentiality is both an ethical and a legal issue.

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Keeping information about a patient confidential is a way of showing respect for the person’s autonomy; releasing information can damage the patient. ” (Greenwood, 2013). Dr. Smith’s wife asks him to share medical information about her brother, She feels she has the right to this information but does not understand the position she is putting her husband in. he understands her concerns for her brother, however if this were any other patient Dr. Smith would never consider discussing a patient with her. “There are also specific laws regarding the release of information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

The laws define exactly what information can be released and to whom. ” (Greenwood, 2013). Dr. Smith needs to ensure he keeps the confidentiality of his patient and doesn’t violate HIPPA. Josh is also asking Dr. Smith to break the law by not report the test results to the public health department. There is a legal requirement for reporting and treating communicable diseases. “Reporting of cases of infectious diseases and related conditions has been and remains a vital step in controlling and preventing the spread of communicable disease. ” (CDC, 1990).

Dr. Smith must report the positive test results according to the law; however he does have a close relationship with his brother-in-law and does not want to lose his trust, especially with his current medical condition. Although Dr. Smith does not need consent to report the case of hepatitis C, he will need the patient’s consent to begin any treatment for the disease. “Patients must provide informed consent for treatment to be legal. ” (Greenwood, 2013). “Health care practitioners of all sorts face the risk of being sued for malpractice.

A lawsuit may be brought from an injury related to surgery, defective equipment or medical products, care that was omitted or a deliberate act that caused harm to a patient. ” (Greenwood, 2013). Dr. Smith can be sued for malpractice by anyone who contracts hepatitis C from Josh if he does not report the case and give Josh the proper treatment. By choosing to not report or treat Josh’s case, Dr. Smith will be guilty of omitting care. A kind act by a caring doctor has quickly turned into a legally and ethically nightmare. Dr.

Smith chose to make his brother-in-law a patient by ordering labs that gave a positive result for hepatitis C. Dr. Smith can now face charges and lose his license to practice medicine. This whole situation could have been handled differently and the weight of violating medical law and ethics would not be on Dr. Smith’s shoulders. There is still a way for out of the doctor to correct the situation. All he has to do is report the case of hepatitis C, and hand off his brother-in-law to another provider with no connection to ensure he does in fact receive the proper care.

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Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare. (2016, Aug 24). Retrieved from

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