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Medical Ethics For Dummies

ISBN: 978-0-470-87856-9
384 pages
December 2010
Medical Ethics For Dummies (0470878568) cover image


A practical, insightful guide to the moral and ethical standards of healthcare

Succeeding in the healthcare field means more than just making a diagnosis and writing a prescription. Healthcare professionals are responsible for convincing patients and their family members of the best course of action and treatments to follow, while knowing how to make the right moral and ethical choices, and so much more. Unlike daunting and expensive texts, Medical Ethics For Dummies offers an accessible and affordable course supplement for anyone studying medical or biomedical ethics.
•    Follows typical medical and biomedical ethics courses
•    Covers real ethical dilemmas doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers may face
•    Includes moral issues surrounding stem cell research, genetic engineering, euthanasia, and more
Packed with helpful information, Medical Ethics For Dummies arms aspiring medical professionals with the philosophical and practical foundation for advancing in a field where critical ethical and moral decisions need to be rapidly and convincingly made.

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Table of Contents


Part I: Medical Ethics, or Doing the Right Thing.

Chapter 1: What Are Medical Ethics?

Chapter 2: Morality in Medicine.

Chapter 3: The Provider-Patient Relationship.

Chapter 4: Outside the Examining Room: Running an Ethical Practice.

Chapter 5: Learning from Mistakes: Disclosing Medical Errors.

Part II: A Patient's Right to Request, Receive, and Refuse Care.

Chapter 6: The Ethical Challenges in Distributing Basic Healthcare.

Chapter 7: When Spirituality and Cultural Beliefs Affect Care.

Chapter 8: Parental Guidance and Responsibilities.

Part III: Ethics at the Beginning and End of Life.

Chapter 9: Two Lives, One Patient: Pregnancy Rights and Issues.

Chapter 10: When Science Supersedes Sex: Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy.

Chapter 11: Walking a Fine Line: Examining the Ethics of Abortion.

Chapter 12: Determining Death: Not an Event, but a Process.

Chapter 13: Death with Dignity: The Right to Appropriate End-of-Life Care.

Part IV: Advancing Medical Knowledge with Ethical Clinical Research.

Chapter 14: Toward Trials without Error: The Evolution of Ethics in Clinical Research.

Chapter 15: Beyond Guinea Pigs: Anatomy of an Ethical Clinical Trial.

Chapter 16: Research in Special Populations.

Chapter 17: It’s All in the Genes: The Ethics of Stem Cell and Genetic Research.

Part V: The Part of Tens.

Chapter 18: Ten Ethical Issues to Address with Your Patients.

Chapter 19: Ten High-Profi le Medical Ethics Cases.

Chapter 20: Almost Ten Ethical Issues for the Future.


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Author Information

Jane Runzheimer, MD, is a family physician who has served on the Ethics Committee of Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Linda Johnson Larsen has written 24 books, many of which have an emphasis on health, and has been a patient advocate for her husband and several family members.

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Press Release

December 09, 2010
Ten Ethical Issues to Address with Your Patients - from Medical Ethics For Dummies

1.       Confidentiality in the Patient Visit

It could be very harmful if someone’s medical information were to become public. You can certainly imagine a situation where a person might be denied employment because of a medical condition, or when medical information may be used against someone in divorce proceedings.

2.       Informed Consent

A patient must be instructed on the risks and benefits of evaluations or tests, treatments, or medications prescribed, and procedures or surgeries performed. The primary ethical principle here is autonomy. Patients can make the best decisions about their healthcare when they are well-informed.

3.       Integration of Religious and Cultural Beliefs into Patient Care

It’s important that as a provider, you understand your patients’ cultural and religious practices – many of them integral to their very being. It’s a great benefit to the patient that he is understood as a whole person. In this setting, healing is more likely to occur.

4.       The Ethics of Clinical Research

As a provider, whether you are a researcher or a physician with patients involved in trials, you must make sure the patient clearly understands the study in which he is participating and the safeguards in place to shield him from harm.

5.       Help for the Uninsured

There are many people who are uninsured or underinsured in the United States. Many people are burdened or even bankrupted by medical bills. It’s critical that you give all patients the best care possible, regardless of their economic status. However, it’s also helpful to understand your patient’s financial situation. If they’re willing to talk about it. The goal is to try to not add to the problems he’s experiencing by ordering more expensive tests or medications then necessary.

6.       Screening for Genetic Diseases

Genetic testing, for adults and pregnant women, can give the patient information to help guide medical and personal decisions. But sometimes harm can come from too much information. It’s important that your patients understand the ethical issues associated with genetic screening.

7.       Ethical Dilemmas in Infertility

Infertility is one of the most difficult situations a couple can face. It’s a journey of emotional extremes and may lead to decisions involving more advanced technologies such as IVF. There are a number of ethical issues associated with these technologies, and it’s helpful to the patient and her partner if they understand them before proceeding.

8.       Minimize Suffering in Terminal Conditions

As a patient’s pain is controlled, more beneficence is achieved. But, medications to relieve pain, primarily narcotics, can cause sedation, respiratory depression, and even death. Overuse of these medications can reduce autonomy by sedating the patient so he can’t make decisions.

9.       The Living Will Discussion

Very few patients are interested in deciding if they would like CPR, tube feedings, or terminal sedation at the end of life, especially when they are living healthy, active lives. However, all patients should be encouraged to complete a healthcare directive or living will, especially those who are elderly, those who have serious or terminal medical conditions, or those facing major surgery.

10.   Honor the Patient-Provider Relationship

Remember that excellent care of the patient is always your highest priority. Think about the ethical principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice, and how they might apply in each individual situation. Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes. Remember that you won’t always be able to offer a treatment or cure, but you can always offer your ongoing support and compassion for a patient during difficult times. 

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