Posted: December 25th, 2022

Ethical dilemma in healthcare examples and solutions

When faced with an ethical dilemma, healthcare professionals are tasked with making decisions that often have life-or-death consequences. This can be a daunting and stressful experience, as the weight of the decision rests solely on their shoulders. Healthcare professionals must consider all available information and perspectives before making a decision.

When faced with an ethical dilemma, healthcare providers must weigh each decision’s pros and cons to make the best choice for their patients. These dilemmas can be difficult to navigate, but they are essential in providing care. By understanding the different ethical dilemmas and how to approach them, healthcare providers can be better prepared to make the best decisions for their patients.

The following article will explore ethical dilemmas in healthcare examples and solutions and offer guidance on how to make decisions in these difficult situations.

What is an ethical dilemma?

An ethical dilemma is a situation with no clear right or wrong answer. Ethical dilemmas are often seen in healthcare, as there are many potential actions that a healthcare professional could take, and each step has the potential to impact the lives of others.

 Healthcare professionals must consider the ethical implications of their actions before taking any action. For example, a doctor may be faced with the decision to provide a patient with life-saving treatment, even though it may not be covered by insurance.

This can create a financial burden for the patient and their family and put the doctor at risk of losing their job. Another example of an ethical dilemma in healthcare is when a pregnant woman is told she has a high risk of miscarrying her baby. She may be faced with the decision to have an abortion or continue the pregnancy, knowing that there is a chance she could lose her baby anyway.

Moral vs. ethical dilemma

We often consider these terms interchangeable when it comes to right and wrong. However, there is a distinction between moral and ethical dilemmas. A moral dilemma is a situation in which there is an apparent conflict between two morally correct options, and neither choice is preferable.

An ethical dilemma, on the other hand, is a situation in which there is a conflict between two equally morally correct options, but when one option may have consequences that are more ethically problematic than the other.

When faced with a moral dilemma, you must weigh the pros and cons of each option and make the best decision possible. The key here is, to be honest with yourself about what each choice would entail and your motivations for making each choice. It is also important to be aware of personal biases that might influence your decision-making.

One well-known example of an ethical dilemma is the trolley problem. In this scenario, you are presented with the choice of either letting a trolley full of people crash into a group of five people or pulling a lever that will divert the trolley onto a different track where only one person will be hit. Both choices result in death, but most people would say that diverting the trolley is more ethical because it results in fewer deaths.

Ethical dilemma in nursing

As a nurse, you will be faced with ethical dilemmas regularly. Many of these dilemmas can be resolved by following the code of ethics for nurses. However, there are some situations where the code of ethics does not provide clear guidance. In these cases, you must use your judgment to decide the best course of action.

Some common ethical dilemmas that nurses face include whether or not to disclose confidential information, whether to provide care to a patient who is refusing treatment and how to deal with patients who are non-compliant with their medication regimen.

Making decisions in these difficult situations can be very stressful. It is essential to take some time to think about what you believe is the right thing to do. An ethical dilemma is when a nurse must choose between two morally equal actions. This can be a difficult decision to make, as both options may have positive and negative consequences.

Nurses can take a few steps to help make these decisions.

  • First, you should identify the values at stake
  • Consider the potential outcomes of each option
  • Consult with other nurses or ethicists to get different perspectives. Ultimately, the decision must be based on what the nurse believes is best for the patient.

How to identify ethical dilemmas in nursing

When it comes to ethical dilemmas in nursing, there are a few key things to look for.

  • Any situation that has the potential to cause harm or distress to a patient is likely to be an ethical dilemma.
  • Any situation where there is a conflict of interest between the nurse and the patient or between the nurse and the healthcare team can also be an ethical dilemma.
  • Any situation where the nurse feels uncertain about the best course of action is likely to be an ethical dilemma. For example, if a patient wants to end their life but the nurse feels it is their duty to keep them alive, this is an ethical dilemma.
  • Finally, you want to be on the lookout for any decision that could significantly impact someone’s life. For example, if a nurse is considering whether or not to report a colleague they believe is engaged in unethical behavior, it is a big decision with potentially serious consequences.

Nurse’s code of ethics

A nurse’s code of ethics is a set of guidelines to ensure they provide the best possible care to their patients. Nurses face ethical dilemmas daily and must have a clear code of ethics to guide their decision-making.

The nurse’s code of ethics also provides a framework for how to deal with difficult situations. It is important for nurses to remember that they have a duty to their patients and to act in their best interests. This means that sometimes difficult decisions must be made to ensure that the patient receives the best possible care.

Four main principles make up the nurse’s code of ethics. These principles are intended to create a professional standard for nurses that upholds the dignity and rights of patients while also ensuring that nurses provide quality care. The nurse’s code of ethics is integral to the foundation on which the nursing profession is built. These principles include:

  • Respect for autonomy

Respect for autonomy is essential in nursing because it ensures that patients are treated as individuals with unique needs and preferences. It also allows nurses to advocate for their patient’s rights and best interests. When making decisions about patient care, nurses should always consider what is in the patient’s best interest.

  • beneficence

The principle of beneficence requires nurses to act in the best interest of their patients. This includes providing respectful care for the patient’s autonomy and dignity, promoting the patient’s well-being, and protecting the patient from harm.

  • non-maleficence

The principle of non-maleficence. This principle dictates that nurses must not harm their patients. Nurses must always act in the best interests of their patients and put their safety and well-being above all else.

Nurses have a duty to protect their patients from harm. They should never knowingly or recklessly endanger their patients. If a nurse believes that a patient is at risk of harm, they have a duty to report this to the appropriate authorities.

  • justice

As a nurse, you must uphold a particular code of ethics. This code of ethics is based on values of justice, respect, and compassion. As a nurse, you are expected to provide proper care. You should always treat patients with respect and dignity. You should also be compassionate towards your patients and their families. Justice means that nurses must treat all patients fairly and equally.

Ethical dilemma questions

When it comes to ethical dilemmas, there are no easy answers. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask the tough questions. Here are a few ethical dilemma questions to get you thinking:

  1. Is it ever ethically permissible to lie? When, if ever, is it better to tell a ” white lie” rather than the truth?
  2. Is it ethical to break the law to protest an unjust law?
  3. Is it ethically permissible to take someone’s life, even in self-defense? In war? In capital punishment cases?
  4. How do we balance the need for privacy with the public’s right to know?
  5. Should I provide care to a patient not following their treatment plan?
  6. What if I believe a patient is making a decision that harms them?
  7. How do I deal with conflicting demands from patients and families?
  8. Is it ethical to withhold treatment from a patient who cannot afford it?
  9. Is it ethical to provide substandard care to a patient who cannot afford better?
  10. Is it ethical to ration care based on factors like age or health status?
  11. Is it ethical to lie to a patient about their prognosis?
  12. Is it ethical to end a patient’s life if they are suffering from a terminal illness?
  13. What is the best course of action?
  14. What are the potential risks and benefits of each option?
  15. What are my values, and how do they impact my decision-making?
  16. What are the ethical principles that guide my decision-making?
  17. What are the potential consequences of each option?
  18. Whom will this decision impact, and how?

Ethical dilemma scenarios for students

When it comes to medical-ethical dilemma cases, nurses face them daily. But what if you were the one in the scenario? How would you handle it? We’ve put together five different ethical dilemma scenarios for nursing students, so you can get an idea of what you might face one day.

Scenario 1: A patient is admitted to your unit with a diagnosis of end-stage renal disease. The patient is not on dialysis and has expressed that they do not want to start. The patient’s family is pressuring you to start dialysis, but the patient is adamant about not wanting treatment. What do you do?

Scenario 2: One of your patients is a Jehovah’s Witness and refuses to receive a blood transfusion, even though it is medically necessary.

Scenario 3: You are caring for a terminally ill patient who has decided to discontinue treatment. The patient asks you to keep this information confidential. However, you know that if you do not tell the patient’s physician about the decision, the patient may not receive the proper palliative care they need. What do you do?

Scenario 4: A patient comes to you for advice on whether or not to have an abortion. You know that it is against your personal beliefs to support abortion, but you also know that it is the patient’s legal right to make this decision.

Scenario 5: A patient is admitted to your unit with a terminal illness and has requested that no life-sustaining measures be taken. However, the patient’s family requests that all measures be taken to prolong their loved one’s life. As the nurse, what do you do?

Scenario 6: You have been caring for a patient nearing the end of their life. The patient has expressed a desire to die at home, surrounded by family and friends. However, their family is opposed to this and wants them to stay in the hospital.

Scenario 7: A patient discloses sensitive information to the nurse during a consultation. The nurse feels obligated to keep this information confidential but wonders if she should share it with the patient’s doctor.

Scenario 8: A nurse witnesses another healthcare worker mistreating a patient. The nurse is unsure whether to report the incident, as she does not want to get the other healthcare worker in trouble.

Scenario 9: You work in a busy emergency room when a car accident victim is brought in. He is unconscious and has multiple injuries. The doctors tell you that he will not survive unless he receives a blood transfusion immediately, but his family is opposed to transfusions on religious grounds.

Scenario 10: You are assigned to care for an HIV-positive patient. He tells you that he does not want anyone else to know about his diagnosis because he is afraid of discrimination.

Ethical dilemmas examples in healthcare

When it comes to difficult decisions in healthcare, ethical dilemmas are not uncommon. Here are a few examples of ethical dilemmas that healthcare professionals may face:

  • A patient is admitted to the hospital with a terminal illness and only has a few months to live. The patient’s family is very religious and does not want them to receive life-prolonging treatments, such as artificial ventilation or dialysis. However, the patient is still relatively young and wants to fight for their life. As a healthcare professional, you must decide whether to honor the patient’s wishes or their family’s.
  • You are a doctor who specializes in treating cancer. A close friend of yours has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and asks you to treat them. However, you know that the chances of successful treatment are meager.
  • A patient is admitted to the hospital with a life-threatening condition. The treating physician knows that the patient will die if they do not act quickly. However, the patient has expressed that they do not want to receive any aggressive treatment and would let nature take its course. In this scenario, the physician must decide whether to respect the patient’s wishes or provide treatment against their wishes to save their life.
  • A pregnant woman is admitted to the hospital with a life-threatening condition. The treating physician knows that if they do not act quickly, the mother and baby will die.
  • Should a terminally ill patient be kept alive through artificial means?
  • What is the best way to deal with a patient seeking assisted suicide?
  • Should patients be told the truth about their prognosis, even if it is bleak?
  • What is the best way to allocate scarce resources, such as organs for transplantation?
  • A patient is terminally ill and wants to end their life. They ask you, their doctor, for help. This is against the Hippocratic Oath, which states, “I will not give a deadly drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I suggest this effect.”
  • A patient wants to know their prognosis, but you are unsure if they can handle the truth. Telling them could cause them undue stress and anxiety. Not telling them could hinder their ability to make important decisions about their care and treatment options.
  • A patient asks you to lie to their insurance company about the severity of their condition to get approval for a procedure they need. Lying is unethical, but not doing everything possible to help your patient may also be considered unethical.
  • One of the most common ethical dilemmas in healthcare is what is known as the “double effect.” This occurs when a physician prescribes a medication that has both beneficial and harmful effects. For example, a cancer patient may be prescribed a chemotherapy drug that will make them very sick but will also hopefully kill the cancer cells.
  • Another common ethical dilemma is whether or not to provide care for patients who cannot pay.

Solutions to ethical dilemmas

When it comes to ethical dilemmas in healthcare, a few critical solutions can help.

  1. Communication is key.

If you feel uneasy about a situation, communicate with your supervisor or another trusted individual.

  1. Always remember the importance of informed consent

Make sure that patients understand all of their options before making any decisions.

  1. Always keep patient confidentiality in mind.

Even if you are uncomfortable with a particular situation, remember that it is not your place to share any information about the patient without their consent.

  1. Be transparent with patients.

This means being honest about risks and benefits and providing information in a way that is easy to understand.

  1. Involve patients in decision-making

This can help ensure that decisions are made based on what is best for the patient rather than what is easiest or most profitable for the provider.

  1. Ensure you are up-to-date on the latest ethical guidelines
  2. Adhere to the code of ethics set forth by their professional organizations

This code of ethics provides guidelines for how healthcare professionals should behave in various situations.

  1. Another solution is for healthcare organizations to establish policies and procedures for addressing ethical dilemmas.

These policies and procedures can guide employees when facing an ethical dilemma.

  1. Educating and training on ethical issues can help healthcare professionals identify and resolve ethical dilemmas.
  2. Do nothing and hope that the problem sorts itself out

This is usually not the best action, leading to further complications.

  1. Try and reason with the parties involved in the dilemma

This cannot be easy, as people’s ethical standards are often very different. However, if both parties are willing to listen to each other and compromise, this can be an effective way to solve the problem.

  1. The Last resort is to go to a higher authority.

This could be a manager at work, a judge in a court of law, or even God if the dilemma is religious. You can also consult with an ethical committee. These committees are usually made up of experts in the field who can offer guidance on how to resolve the issue. They can also provide information on resources that may be helpful in solving the problem.

Bottom line

The ethical dilemma in healthcare is a complex and challenging issue to solve. However, it is crucial to consider the options and make the best decision for the patient. The healthcare industry is constantly changing and evolving, so it is important to know the latest developments to make the best patient decisions.

There are many factors to consider when making healthcare decisions, including the patient’s needs, the patient, the rights of the patient, and the responsibilities of the healthcare provider. These dilemmas can be difficult to resolve, but it is essential to consider all options and make the best decision for the patient.

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