Ethics is defined as a system of moral principles which involves the process of questioning, discovering, and defending our values and purposes. An individual’s behavior or actions are governed by moral principles. An excerpt from Beauchamp and Childress’ ‘Principle of Biomedical Ethics’ which was first published in 1979 brought to life the four morals of healthcare ethics which included ‘respect for autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, and justice.’
Numerous other professors such as Summers a professor at the School of Health Administration of Texas State University, as well as Gillon a professor at the Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine in London further agree that ethics in healthcare ‘are based on four common, basic moral commitments: justice, autonomy, non-maleficence, and beneficence.
A positive example of the ethical practice was demonstrated by health professionals namely the female radiographers and the radiologist alongside myself at Macquarie Private Hospital. The male patient presented to the radiology department post-trauma on the cricket field where he injured his penis from a cricket ball due to the absence of a protective guard. The doctor had referred him for an x-ray urethrogram to look for any narrowing of the urethra.
Prior to the injection of contrast through the urethra, the patient was extremely restless and anxious on the x-ray table. The patient requested to speak to the radiologist before commencing the examination to explain the procedure. The radiologist was very comforting with regards to explaining the urethrogram and the patient evidently eased up. He then requested a male radiographer to perform the examination.
Since I was the only male radiographer in the department I was politely asked to perform the examination under the guidance of the radiographers. Regardless of me being a student, the patient was more than happy for me to perform the procedure as I was of the same gender. To account for the patient’s concerns, a standing partition was placed behind the x-ray room, so the male’s privacy could be maintained.
Ethical practice refers to the standards of professional conduct that any industry professional is expected to uphold. Ethics in the healthcare system is split into 4 key principles which each play a vital role in ensuring optimal patient safety and care. Newson states that ‘the development of [ethics] in Australia currently lags well behind that in other countries.
Autonomy refers to the right of the patient to maintain control over their body. Healthcare professionals should always ensure that they can only suggest or advise the patient with the best treatment options available. Patients should never be persuaded into making a decision. Various claimed that ‘autonomy is a central value in Western medicine and medical ethics.’ (2006) Further Entwistle, Carter, Cribb & McCaffery state that ‘Personal autonomy is widely valued. Recognition of its vulnerability in health care contexts led to the inclusion of respect for autonomy as a key concern in biomedical ethics.’ (2010) Here, the patient wanted to talk to the radiologist before commencing the exam. The radiologist clearly illustrated autonomy by providing details about the examination and even highlighting the potential complication that may arise, namely damage to the urethra. Never in this interaction did the radiologist attempt to persuade or pressure the patient into making a choice, he only offered information on the importance of having this scan done as well as highlighting the potential dangers that may arise. Ultimately, autonomy was maintained during this interaction as the radiologist reassured the patient by listening to his concerns and answering them without hesitation.
Beneficence is the role of a health care professional to do all they can to benefit the patient in their respective situation. The procedures, as well as the treatment options recommended by healthcare professionals, must all be done with the intention to benefit the patient. Kinsinger believes that ‘all [health] professionals have the foundational moral imperative of doing right… the professional is obliged to, always and without exception, favor the well-being and interest of the patient. (2009) Before commencing this exam, the doctor had alerted the patient that this was one of the first examinations that needed to be conducted to diagnose the patient with any problems with regards to the complications he is experiencing. He further alerted the patient that the radiation used was minimal and ensured that suitable images were taken for him to report on.
Macklin claimed that ‘the principle of non-maleficence requires physicians to avoid harm, whenever possible, so withholding a proven, beneficial treatment is likely to have the consequence of producing harm’. Non-maleficence means to do no harm which refers to not pressure procedures against patients. Once the patient had agreed to continue on with the examination, the radiologist warned the patient of phases where they will feel pain however assured that it would only be temporary. The radiologist asked the patient three times to confirm if they were prepared for what could happen. Further, he consistently checked up on the patient to ensure he wasn’t injuring the patient but rather doing what he could do best to help the patient. The patient's privacy was also maintained by covering the window during this procedure to keep him at ease.
After the procedure, the patient was content it was over and repetitively thanked both the radiologist and me for conducting the procedure. This x-ray urethrogram on the male patient clearly illustrated a positive example of ethical practice in radiography. Teamwork and communication were very vital in this situation as without the female radiographers guiding me on what to do, I would’ve been very lost and could’ve terrified the patient from continuing on with the procedure. Hence, I have learned the importance of being confident in everything I do as fear is facially and physically expressed and is easily read by the patients. Ultimately, the patient had distal narrowing due to trauma and was referred to a urologist specialist.