Ethical Principles in Health Care.

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What are the ethical principles in health care?

Bioethics is the language of ethics related to healthcare.

The four basic ethical principles in health care are namely:

  1. Autonomy.
  2. Beneficence.
  3. Nonmaleficence.
  4. Justice.


Autonomy is the ability to make decisions for oneself, also known as self-government. Thus, it requires that patients be told the truth about their condition and be informed about the risks and benefits of treatment in order for them to make informed decisions. This means that patients are allowed to refuse treatment even if the most reliable information suggests the treatment would be beneficial unless their action would have a negative impact on the well-being of another individual.

A health care expert can suggest or advise, but any actions that attempt to persuade or pressure the patient into making a choice are violations of this principle. Therefore, the patient must be allowed to make his or her own decisions – whether or not the medical provider believes these choices are in that patient’s best interests – independently and according to his or her personal values and beliefs.


Beneficence is one of the ethical principles of health care and states that health care providers must do all they can to benefit the patient in each situation. In short, beneficence is the act of being kind. Therefore, the actions of the health care providers are designed to bring a positive good. Medical practitioners must develop and maintain a high level of skill and knowledge. Moreover, they must consider their patient’s individual circumstances. That is, what is good for one patient will not necessarily benefit another.


This means doing no harm. Therefore, health care providers must ask themselves if their actions might harm the patient either by commission or omission. This means that all the actions of the health care provider should be right in the interest of the patient and avoid negative consequences.


This ethical principle of health care states that there should be an element of fairness in all medical decisions. Justice may have two types: distributive and comparative.

         i.            Distributive justice.

This addresses the degree to which health care services are distributed equitably throughout society.

       ii.            Comparative justice.

This determines how health care is delivered at the individual level. Therefore, this looks at the disparate treatment of patients on basis of age, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, and religion.


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