The observance of ethical standards in the practice of medicine is very important because of the fact that it involves the health and safety of the patients and other stakeholders in the entire complex process. In this regard, a moral code which covers the ideals was imposed among the practitioners to observe. The same is referred to as the Hippocratic Oath which includes various solemn guidelines imposed towards the medical practitioners for them to abide. In the process, medical ethics encompasses the practical application of the moral code or ethical standards as well as the works on history, philosophy, and sociology.
The theoretical framework of medical ethics are following: (1) Respect for Autonomy; (2) Beneficence; (3) Non-Maleficence; and (4) Justice. Until today, such principles or values are being applied in the medical profession and were used as the basis of most court decisions which form part of the overall legal system most especially on cases alleging malpractice. Under the first principle, the rights of the patients towards self-determination are given respect and paramount importance. Moreover, beneficence is observed if the best interest of the patients is taken into consideration. This highlights the welfare of the patients. Further, non-maleficence views the fact of not harming the patients more important than doing them good. Finally, justice is viewed as respect to human rights in the context of medical ethics.
These principles or values in medical ethics, however, impose ethical dilemmas among the healthcare practitioners because the values provided by such code do not necessarily reflect their personal values. In return, their medical decisions which conform to their personal values or principles but do not abide to such Hippocratic Oath and the above mentioned core values amount to medical malpractice. For example, in a case decided by the US appellate court, physicians and nurses were sued by the parents of an unborn child as they instituted blood transfusion on the mother in order to save the life of the fetus. The couple initially refused such treatment despite the fatal consequence and cited their religious belief for the said refusal. The appellate court ruled that there was a malpractice on the part of the medical practitioners since they violated the human rights of the patients to practice their religious beliefs.
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