Day 3: Legal and Ethical Responsibilities

Introduction to medical ethic:

The laws and ethical code of conduct for the medical profession must be understood by all members of the health care team. These laws and ethics code protect all members of the medical profession, as well as the patient and the client.

Medical ethics have been important in the study of medicine as far back as 400 B.C when Hippocrates wrote the Hippocratic oath, a document that first developed the standards of medical conduct and ethic.

Today, many health care associations have adopted codes of ethics and passed them to each member of the health care team which provide guidelines for their professional behavior.

Today’s practice of medicine exists within a framework of laws.

The branch that deals with standards of behavior or beliefs is called ethic. Ethics can be defined as moral principles. "What’s right and what’s wrong".

Healthcare workers should study ethics for a number of reasons:

It is an important part of an individual’s education to develop the intellectual skills to analyze complex problems and justify the choices made in certain situations.

Learning about ethics and social issues encourages ordinary people to have input into social beliefs and expectations.

There is a need to make informed choices about what care will be provided to whom, and when, rather than simply responding to situations.

As a member of the health care team, you are responsible for always displaying ethical behavior.

Ethical Behavior means maintaining the highest level of ethicals to accomplish a task.

As a healthcare worker, you should always:

Respect the rights of all patients, opinions, lifestyles, and beliefs that are different from your own.

Remember that everything seen, heard, or read about a patient is considered confidential and does not leave the job site (HIPAA).

Follow closely the specific rules of ethical behavior established by your employer.

The American Hospital Association felt it was necessary to establish a document called the Patients bill of Rights, which identified what the person could expect from those individuals who cared for the patient.

The intent of such document is to make both members of the health care system and the patients aware of what the patient has a right to expect.

According to the AHA, the patient has the right to:

Considerate and respectful care

Obtain complete and current information concerning their diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis, in terms that they can be reasonably expected to understand.

Informed consent, means making a decision after fully understanding several points to include knowledge of the proposed procedure, along with is risk and probable duration of incapacitation,

The patient has right to information regarding medically significant alternatives.

The patient also has the right to refuse treatment, and to be informed of the medical consequence of such action.

Expect that all communications and records pertaining to his or her care be treated in a confidential manner.

Every healthcare worker is expected to abide by a professional code of conduct.

Traditionally, five main duties of a health care professional have been identified:

1) Do no harm: the concept of no malfeasance means, doing no harm in any treatment given.

2) Do the best possible: the concept of beneficence, "doing your best", is seen in some systems of ethics as a separate duty, whereas in others it is considered an extension of doing no harm.

3) Be truthful to reasonable expectations: in the case of medical practice, it is usually interpreted as being honest about expectations.

4) Be a patient advocate: an advocate is a person who intercede on behalf of another person. An EKG Technician functions as an advocate for patients by suggesting appropriate treatments or care.

5) Tell the truth is the concept of veracity: physicians and another health professionals must provide truthful information without having to be asked.

Protection under the Law:

In the health care field, both the patient and the health care worker must be assured protection under the law.

For the patient, this means being assured of safe care. For the health care professional, it means being protected if something goes wrong during a procedure.

The Good Samaritan Law is a law that addresses the problem of medical malpractice suits for a physician or any trained health care professional who comes upon an accident scene and attempts to render aid to the victim, this law encourages members of health care profession to offer treatment without fearing the possibility of malpractice suit.

In health care, under the Rule of Personal Liability, all individuals are held responsible for their own personal conduct. You can also be held jointly responsible if you witness an illegal act and do not report it.

Every healthcare professional must report crimes that they learn about when practicing medicine, neglect, child or elder abuse, and financial abuse.

Patient Consent:

When a Doctor makes a diagnosis and recommends a specific mode of treatment, the patient, has the right to accept or refuse such diagnosis and treatment, this is called Consent.

In the event that a patient may have difficulty understanding or speaking the language, the explanation of treatment and options must be translated or prepared in the patient’s native language.

A patient who has not been properly informed through the informed consent process can not grant consent for a procedure.

Guidelines for the informed consent:

Always make sure that the patient fully understands the consent form and realizes what he or she has signed, patients who are mentally handicapped should be given an explanation that can be understood completely, with a few confusing terms possible.

The patient must never be forced to sign the consent form and must not be allowed to sign under any medication which might impair his decision making abilities.

Any adult over eighteen years of age may sign his or her own consent unless the patient is incompetent.

If in an emergency situation, a physicians may authorize consent.

Emancipated Minors:

An emancipated minor, who is under the age of 18, and has been declared by a court of law to be legally responsible for his or herself, may sign his or her own consent form.

Telephone consent are valid only in emergency situations, provided that the telephone consent is witnessed by two people and is immediately followed by a written confirmation.

Patient’s Medical Records

The patient’s medical record is a legal document, it is extremely important that these records be as accurate, complete, up to date and as neat as possible, in order to protect members of the medical staff from any future litigation.

If you are documenting in the patients’ medical records, always remember to use only permanent ink, and never erase an entry.

Medical records are considered legal document, they can be use in a court of law, and you need to document only objective information.

If an error has been made, simply cross the error out using only one line, initial it, and rewrite the correct entry above or next to the original entry.

No documentation written in pencil is acceptable, and the record can be automatically rejected as legal evidence.

Lawsuits: in any court proceeding, there is a plaintiff (the person or entity that makes the complaint), and a defendant (the person or entity against whom a lawsuits is brought upon).

A crime: is an offense in violation of a law that prohibits or require certain behavior.

A misdemeanor: is a less serious crime, punishable by a fine or imprisonment for less than 1 year.

A felony: is a serious crime, punishable by death or imprisonment for more than 1 year.

Abandonment: failure to continue to provide medical care to a patient without proper notification.

Assault: threat to touch another person without his consent.

Battery: touching a person without his consent.

Defamation: making a false claim that may harm a person’s reputation. An attack in a patients reputation.

False imprisonment: confining a person without legal authority.

Negligence: failure to give reasonable care.

Malpractice: harm to the patient


In this chapter we covered a lot of the major legal and ethical responsibilities that all healthcare workers abide by on a daily basis.

It is very important for you to know and become familiar with these rules as they will serve you for the rest of your medical career.

Ok so now that we have covered the lesson on Legal and Ethical Responsibilities, lets revise the new terms we leaned on the following quiz.

Use the link below to start your work!