The 4 Principles of Health Care Ethics - Clipboard Health (2023)

Working in the health care field can be both rewarding and challenging. Each shift you work is filled with new patients, sometimes unexpected experiences, and many choices that will have positive and negative consequences on someone’s health.

(Video) How IRBs Protect Human Research Participants

Due to health care being such a dynamic environment, the four principles of health care ethics were created to support professionals as you navigate patient care. These principles are autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice.

Each of these principles has a unique objective, but the four come together to empower you as a health care professional and ensure that patients are receiving high quality and ethical health care.

#1 – Autonomy

The 4 Principles of Health Care Ethics - Clipboard Health (1)

The literal meaning of autonomy and the medical definition of autonomy have their differences and similarities.

At its base definition, autonomy is the control that you exercise when making individual decisions, especially regarding your well-being.In health care, autonomy is the right or freedom of the patient to maintain control of their body before and after treatment.

The practice of autonomy prevents health care professionals from potentially coercing or persuading the patient to take a specific action or treatment plan that might not be in their best interest. Ideally, autonomy aims to improve patient welfare by allowing the patient to be in full command of their treatment and care as much and as often as possible.

This principle is vital in the delivery of evidence-based care. Every individual has different beliefs and experiences that shape their opinions on a variety of topics, and the health care profession is no different. Not all medical professionals agree with certain treatment options and medication processes.

As such, this principle addresses the clause of the best treatment option that the health care provider made independently. Health care professionals like nurses should not try to influence a patient’s decision based on that nurse’s own personal beliefs; however, it’s their responsibility to ensure that patients are educated and informed, so they can make the best decision for themselves.

Patients and caregivers will often have contrasting beliefs, customs, and ideas. Additionally, the best course of action for one patient could be detrimental for another, even if they share the same signs and symptoms. So it’s a health care professional’s responsibility to help empower each patient to take control of their own health care.

Autonomy fosters self-respect, self-knowledge, and self-worth.

(Video) Changing Reality with Wyatt Amaral, Head of Strategy & Operations at Clipboard Health

#2 – Beneficence

The 4 Principles of Health Care Ethics - Clipboard Health (2)

Beneficence is the act of showing kindness or mercy. The actions of any health care provider should always bring positivity.

Beneficence should not be confused with the closely related ethical principle of non-maleficence, which states that one should do no harm to patients. This principle acts as an obligation for nurses to protect their patients from harm by removing and preventing bad situations and promoting good ones.

At its core, beneficence is an essential principle of health care ethics and ethical selfishness. The principle encourages health care workers to consciously invest the time and effort to make sure that each patient benefits in each situation.

Most people who choose health care as a profession do so because they want to help other people, and part of the profession is seeking out every way that you can help make a patient’s treatment experience a little bit better, safer, and more effective. Even the smallest positive change can have a big impact on a patient’s wellbeing.

The difficulty with this principle often lies in defining what good means to each patient. Before acting with beneficence in mind, you have to learn and consider each patient’s specific wants, needs, and experiences. Being aware of a patient’s culture, religious beliefs, past experiences, and likes or dislikes can help guide you in determining what might be good for them.

#3 – Non-Maleficence

The 4 Principles of Health Care Ethics - Clipboard Health (3)

Of the four principles of health care ethics, non-maleficence is the one that is generally the one most commonly prioritized.

Non-maleficence means that you as a health care professional must do no harm. According to the ANA code of ethics, all health care workers should carefully evaluate each situation before making decisions. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, some decisions can cause harm to patients, the community, or even other health care workers, and it’s up to each health care professional to be aware of how each of their decisions can impact others.

Non-maleficence covers four factors. First, an act should not be truly wrong. Second, every action should have a positive benefit. Third, a good effect should never be a result of the wrong action. Lastly, good outcomes should always outweigh the bad.

For example, a patient comes in with a health complication. There are several solutions to treat the complication, such as different prescription medications. The attending doctor chooses to prescribe one of those medications that has possible allergic effects without informing the patient. Later, the patient suffers from adverse drug effects.

(Video) What are the 5 Principles of the Administration for Children and Families’ Evaluation Policy? (AD)

Such a case is considered maleficence, because the physician had other better options. Additionally, each the health care professionals must inform the patient of any potential good or bad effects from any treatment, so the patient can make the best decision for themselves if able to.

On the other end of the spectrum, the goal of health care workers is to save the life of the patient by all means possible. An example of non-maleficence is a case where a patient needs surgical treatment. Though surgeons use anesthetics during surgery, a patient feels pain after the surgery. However, this particular instance is not maleficence, because the surgery was the only solution to save the life of the patient.

Keep in mind that the non-maleficence principle does not only apply to patients but also to fellow health care professional colleagues. Every health care provider should provide a comfortable working environment for other employees. Actions intended to harm other employees are considered maleficence.

Even verbal abuse at work is treated as maleficence. The non-maleficence principle was developed to protect health care workers and patients.

#4 – Justice

The 4 Principles of Health Care Ethics - Clipboard Health (4)

The justice principle states that there should be fairness in all medical decisions. For instance, patients deserve advanced health care delivery regardless of their situation. There have been numerous cases where patients fail to get the necessary treatment due to economic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.

Following the ANA code of ethics, the top priority of all health care workers should be saving the lives of all patients. For example, say a patient comes into a hospital for emergency treatment. During the evaluation of the patient’s situation, the health care staff realize that the patient is an undocumented immigrant. A competent health care worker would proceed with the emergency treatment first to make sure that the patient receives the best care possible to help them with their emergency situation.

Additionally, health care workers should listen to each patient’s interests before beginning medical procedures. For instance, if there are alternative treatments, a patient deserves to be given the information and the opportunity to make an informed decision for themselves. For individuals under the age of 18, their parents or guardians should approve the intended medical choices.

A current debate revolves around reproductive health technologies. Justice would call for equitable access to reproductive health services for all women.

Justice does not only apply to patients; it also impacts health care providers. All physicians, nurses, and other health experts have a right to practice their profession in a pleasant environment. Each and every health care professional and member of a health care team deserve equal chances of assisting in the decision-making process.

(Video) Purpose, Values, Principles - An Ethics Framework

Health care professionals must hold strong to a moral compass. That’s why we only take the best nurses and healthcare professionals at Clipboard Health. Holding yourself to a high ethical standard will benefit the trust present between you and your patient. When ethical dilemmas arise, health care workers must consider the four principles of health care ethics when formatting the best response.

(Video) 10 Health Care Ethics Informed Consent Ethical and Legal Issues 05a


What are the 4 principles of healthcare ethics? ›

The four principles of Beauchamp and Childress - autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence and justice - have been extremely influential in the field of medical ethics, and are fundamental for understanding the current approach to ethical assessment in health care.

What are the 4 principles of health assessment? ›

These principles are autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. Each of these principles has a unique objective, but the four come together to empower you as a health care professional and ensure that patients are receiving high quality and ethical health care.

What are the four basic principles of health care ethics that should be reviewed by the PSW when's he faces an ethical dilemma? ›

Bioethicists often refer to the four basic principles of health care ethics when evaluating the merits and difficulties of medical procedures. Ideally, for a medical practice to be considered "ethical", it must respect all four of these principles: autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence.

Which of the four principles of medical ethics is most important? ›

Using the AHP to measure the relative importance of the different medical ethical principles for individuals, the most important principle is, without ambiguity, “Non maleficence”.

Who created the 4 ethical principles? ›

The Four Principles, originally devised by Beauchamp and Childress in their textbook Principles of Biomedical Ethics, are considered by many as the standard theoretical framework from which to analyse ethical situations in medicine.

What are the 4 techniques of examination used in physical assessment? ›

WHEN YOU PERFORM a physical assessment, you'll use four techniques: inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation. Use them in sequence—unless you're performing an abdominal assessment.

What are the principles of health? ›

The main principles of health are healthy diet, no drugs (alcohol, smoking, drugs, eating too much), regular exercise, adequate rest and positive thinking. We can easily integrate them into our everyday lives when we want it. These five principles of health give us a long, healthy and happy life.

Why are ethical principles important in healthcare? ›

The ethical principle of confidentiality confirms that patient can trust his health care provider not to disclose any information that the patient may have given in order to get cured. A current ethical issue in research involving human participant's informed consent has prime importance.

What are ethics in health care? ›

Medical ethics is concerned with the obligations of the doctors and the hospital to the patient along with other health professionals and society. The health profession has a set of ethics, applicable to different groups of health professionals and health-care institutions.

What is the four quadrant method? ›

The four quadrants approach consists of four broad topics: medical indications, patient preferences, quality of life, and contextual features. Each topic represents one of the four quadrants, within which lie more specific questions.

Which principle of healthcare ethics requires healthcare workers to keep promises to patients? ›

Fidelity often results in a dilemma, because a commitment made to a patient may not result in the best outcome for that patient (Veatch, 2016). At the root of fidelity is the importance of keeping a promise and being true to your word.

What is the purpose of the four working principles? ›

Pragmatism, positivism, relativism and personalism are the four working principles which mean to be reasonably sure the act you take will work and provide the most loving consequence, accepting Situational Ethics as a matter of faith and not reason, each situation must be relative to love and bring about the most ...

What are the four ethical theories? ›

Four broad categories of ethical theory include deontology, utilitarianism, rights, and virtues. The deontological class of ethical theories states that people should adhere to their obliga- tions and duties when engaged in decision making when ethics are in play.

What are the four ethical issues? ›

This framework approaches ethical issues in the context of four moral principles: respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice (see table 1). This framework has been influential because the values it espouses seem to align with our moral norms.

Why is beneficence important? ›

Beneficence is important because it ensures that healthcare professionals consider individual circumstances and remember that what is good for one patient may not necessarily be great for another.

What are ethical principles? ›

Definition. Ethical principles are part of a normative theory that justifies or defends moral rules and/or moral judgments; they are not dependent on one's subjective viewpoints.

What are examples of beneficence? ›

Beneficence. Beneficence is defined as kindness and charity, which requires action on the part of the nurse to benefit others. An example of a nurse demonstrating this ethical principle is by holding a dying patient's hand.

What are the 4 elements of the patient's right? ›

As an example of a current patient bill of rights, Indiana University Health's patient bill of rights includes the following patient rights:
  • To be treated justly.
  • To receive information about care.
  • To refuse treatment.
  • To have confidential medical care.
  • To have continuity of care.
18 Sept 2022

What is beneficence principle? ›

The principle of beneficence is a moral obligation to act for the benefit of others.

What are ethical principles in nursing? ›

4 principles of nursing ethics

These principles are autonomy, beneficence, justice and nonmaleficence.

What are 5 Principles health assessment techniques? ›

  • Accountability.
  • Performance-Based Assessment.
  • Evidence-Based Assessment.
  • Validity and Reliability in Assessment.
  • Participation and Collaboration.

What are the 5 health assessments? ›

The components of a physical exam include:
  • Inspection. Your examiner will look at, or "inspect" specific areas of your body for normal color, shape and consistency. ...
  • Palpation. ...
  • Percussion. ...
  • Auscultation. ...
  • The Neurologic Examination:

What are the types of health assessment? ›

There are mainly four types of health assessments – Initial Assessment, Focused Assessment, Time-lapsed Assessment, and Emergency Assessment.

What are the 5 principles of health care? ›

The five principles of primary health care are: - Accessibility; - Public participation; - Health promotion; - Appropriate skills and technology; and - Intersectoral cooperation. The goal of nursing practice is to improve the health of clients.

What are the 5 principles of health promotion? ›

It suggested that health promotion happens at five key levels.
  • Developing Personal Skills.
  • Creating Supportive Environments.
  • Strengthening Community Action.
  • Developing Public Policy.
  • Re- orienting the Health Services.

What is health in your own words? ›

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

Why is ethical important? ›

Ethics is what guides us to tell the truth, keep our promises, or help someone in need. There is a framework of ethics underlying our lives on a daily basis, helping us make decisions that create positive impacts and steering us away from unjust outcomes.

How can we solve ethical issues in healthcare? ›

Experts contacted for this article suggested several strategies organizations can implement to address ethical issues and reduce nurses' and other clinicians' moral distress:
  1. Support the nursing code of ethics. ...
  2. Offer ongoing education. ...
  3. Create an environment where nurses can speak up. ...
  4. Bring different disciplines together.
3 Mar 2014

How can ethical decisions be made in healthcare? ›

  1. Step 1: Identify the Facts. ...
  2. Step 2: Determine the Relevant Ethical Principles. ...
  3. Step 3: Explore the Options. ...
  4. Step 4: Act. ...
  5. Step 1: Identify the Facts. ...
  6. Step 2: Determine the Relevant Ethical Principles. ...
  7. Step 3: Explore the Options. ...
  8. Step 4: Act.

What are the 5 principles of ethics? ›

Moral Principles

The five principles, autonomy, justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and fidelity are each absolute truths in and of themselves. By exploring the dilemma in regards to these principles one may come to a better understanding of the conflicting issues.

What are the top 5 ethical issues in healthcare? ›

5 Ethical Issues in Healthcare
  • Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders. ...
  • Doctor and Patient Confidentiality. ...
  • Malpractice and Negligence. ...
  • Access to Care. ...
  • Physician-Assisted Suicide.

What are the 7 principles of healthcare ethics? ›

This approach – focusing on the application of seven mid-level principles to cases (non-maleficence, beneficence, health maximisation, efficiency, respect for autonomy, justice, proportionality) – is presented in this paper. Easy to use 'tools' applying ethics to public health are presented.

How do you prioritize 4 quadrants? ›

This will allow you to categorize your to-do items into one of four possible descriptions:
  1. First Quadrant (upper left): urgent and important.
  2. Second Quadrant (upper right): important, but not urgent.
  3. Third Quadrant (lower left): not important, but urgent.
  4. Fourth Quadrant (lower right): neither important nor urgent.

What is the 4 topics method of resolving an ethical problem or making an ethical decision? ›

The four topics approach is a practical process to sort out facts and values and facilitate a discussion and resolution of an ethical dilemma. The four topics – medical indications, patient preferences, quality of life, and contextual features – provide a framework that can be used with any case.

How do you use Covey's 4 quadrants? ›

Covey's 4 Quadrants
  1. Important: These are the tasks or goals most likely to impact your long-term success.
  2. Urgent: Urgent tasks are those that require immediate action. ...
  3. Q1: Urgent and important.
  4. Q2: Not Urgent but important.
  5. Q3: Urgent but not important.
  6. Q4: Not urgent and not important.
29 May 2021

Can you give an example of beneficence and an example of non maleficence? ›

Beneficence means performing a deed that benefits someone, while nonmaleficence means refraining from doing something that harms or injures someone. Feeding people at a soup kitchen is an example of beneficence. Preventing a patient from taking a harmful medication is an example of nonmaleficence.

What are the ethical principles that you believe and live by Why? ›

Moral principles are guidelines that people live by to make sure they are doing the right thing. These include things like honesty, fairness, and equality. Moral principles can be different for everyone because they depend on how a person was raised and what is important to them in life.

Why do you think it is important for health workers to stick to the ethical principles of confidentiality and truthfulness at all times? ›

Confidentiality and truthfulness are fundamental to the work of healthcare workers at every level of the health service. Without working to these basic principles healthcare workers will not gain the respect of their community.

What is situational ethics give an example? ›

For example, if one holds to the absolute wrongness of abortion, then one will never allow for abortion, no matter what the circumstances within which the pregnancy occurs.

What is situation ethics essay? ›

Situation Ethics is a Teleological ethical theory which is based on consequences. It's a Consequentialist and a Relative theory which looks at all circumstances. Fletcher in his book 'Situation Ethic' said that this theory is based on love, in particular Agape love.

What makes a situation ethical? ›

Situational ethics dictate that the moral path be decided by the context of the issue at hand, rather than have a textbook judgment for everything. Our ethics stem from what we call 'our conscience. ' This is all fine and good, and conscience has a big role to play in ethical decision-making.

What are the main types of ethics? ›

Ethics is traditionally subdivided into normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics.

What are the key elements of ethical systems? ›

Eight Elements of an Ethical Organization
  • Respect: As an entrepreneur building a business, you need to respect yourself and surround yourself with people you can respect. ...
  • Honor: Good people are a fundamental part of good ethics. ...
  • Integrity: ...
  • Customer focus: ...
  • Results-oriented: ...
  • Risk-taking: ...
  • Passion: ...
  • Persistence:
12 Jan 2002

What are ethics PDF? ›

Ethics can be defined as the analysis of human actions from the perspective of “good” and “evil,” or of “morally correct” and “morally wrong.” If ethics categorises actions. and norms as morally correct or wrong, one then speaks of normative or prescrip- tive ethics.

Who created the 4 ethical principles? ›

The four standard principles proposed by Beauchamp and Childress [2] were used in the new measure, as well as two other principles; confidentiality and truth-telling, which are within the Beauchamp and Childress [2] framework embedded within the principle of autonomy.

What are the 7 principles of healthcare ethics? ›

This approach – focusing on the application of seven mid-level principles to cases (non-maleficence, beneficence, health maximisation, efficiency, respect for autonomy, justice, proportionality) – is presented in this paper. Easy to use 'tools' applying ethics to public health are presented.

What are the 7 principle of ethics? ›

The principles are beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, justice; truth-telling and promise-keeping.

What are the top 5 ethical issues in healthcare? ›

5 Ethical Issues in Healthcare
  • Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders. ...
  • Doctor and Patient Confidentiality. ...
  • Malpractice and Negligence. ...
  • Access to Care. ...
  • Physician-Assisted Suicide.

What are the 7 codes of ethics? ›

Seven golden ethical principles:
  • Be an ethical leader.
  • Use moral courage.
  • Consider personal and professional reputation.
  • Set the right tone at the top.
  • Maintain an enquiring mindset.
  • Consider the public interest.
  • Consider 'the right, the good and the virtuous' actions"
20 Feb 2019

What are four 4 common ethical issues faced by nurses today? ›

The following are some other examples of common ethical situations that nurse managers face:
  • Honesty vs. withholding information. ...
  • Science vs. spirituality. ...
  • Healthcare needs vs. resource allocation. ...
  • Autonomy vs. beneficence.
5 Jun 2020

What are the 5 ethical principles of nursing? ›

The ethical principles that nurses must adhere to are the principles of justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, accountability, fidelity, autonomy, and veracity.

What are the 3 types of ethics? ›

Ethics is traditionally subdivided into normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics.

What are the 4 types of ethics in business ethics? ›

Types of Business Ethics
  • Personal responsibility. Each person who works for a business, whether on the executive level or the entry-level, will be expected to show personal responsibility. ...
  • Corporate responsibility. ...
  • Loyalty. ...
  • Respect. ...
  • Trustworthiness. ...
  • Fairness. ...
  • Community and Environmental Responsibility.

What are the 6 ethical values? ›

These values were identified by a nonpartisan, secular group of youth development experts in 1992 as core ethical values that transcend cultural, religious, and socioeconomic differences. The Six Pillars of Character are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

What are the 6 ethics of nursing? ›

The American Nurses Association (ANA) and other nursing leadership organizations outline these basic principles as a baseline for ethical nursing practice:
  • Benevolence. ...
  • Nonmaleficence. ...
  • Fidelity. ...
  • Accountability. ...
  • Veracity. ...
  • Patient autonomy.
5 Jun 2020

How do you answer medically interview question about ethics? ›

  1. Summarise The Key Issues. Once you've thought about the ethical principles and the scenario given, it's important to summarise what you think the key issues are. ...
  2. Think About Wider Implications. ...
  3. Stay calm. ...
  4. Prepare For Common Questions In Advance. ...
  5. Test Your Knowledge.
9 Nov 2020

What is an example of ethics in healthcare? ›

Ethical decision-making in healthcare.

For example, a patient may refuse care due to cultural/religious views, or may want an unnecessary treatment which may not be in his or her best interests; euthanasia is another example of a provider's sense of morals conflicting with his or her ethical obligations.

What are health care ethics? ›

Overview. Health care ethics (a.k.a “clinical ethics” or "medical ethics") is the application of the core principles of bioethics (autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice) to medical and health care decisions.

What are the 12 codes of ethics? ›

while your character is determined and defined by your actions (i.e., whether your actions are honorable and ethical according to the 12 ethical principles:
  • HONESTY. Be honest in all communications and actions. ...
  • LOYALTY. ...
  • FAIRNESS. ...
13 Jan 2015

What are ethics principles? ›

Definition. Ethical principles are part of a normative theory that justifies or defends moral rules and/or moral judgments; they are not dependent on one's subjective viewpoints.

What is ethics in your own words? ›

First, ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues.


1. Medical Legal and Ethics Review for ALS Providers
(EMS University)
2. The Effects of Behavior-Based Models on Neurodevelopment and Learning with Alfie Kohn & Prof. Torres
(NJ Autism Center of Excellence)
3. Church Health Scholars: About the Program and Application
(Church Health)
4. EHR Chapter 1 Lecture: Introduction to Electronic Health Records
(Cody Closson)
5. The Attachment Theory: How Childhood Affects Life
6. Travis N. Rieder - Quality Talks 2020
(NCQA - National Committee for Quality Assurance)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dan Stracke

Last Updated: 01/24/2023

Views: 5556

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dan Stracke

Birthday: 1992-08-25

Address: 2253 Brown Springs, East Alla, OH 38634-0309

Phone: +398735162064

Job: Investor Government Associate

Hobby: Shopping, LARPing, Scrapbooking, Surfing, Slacklining, Dance, Glassblowing

Introduction: My name is Dan Stracke, I am a homely, gleaming, glamorous, inquisitive, homely, gorgeous, light person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.