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Niger J Med. 2009 Jan-Mar;18(1):8-16.

Medical ethics and ethical dilemmas.

Author information

1
Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, College of Medicine, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Nigeria. goddyiyalo@yahoo.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Ethical problems routinely arise in the hospital and outpatient practice settings and times of dilemma do occur such that practitioners and patients are at cross-roads where choice and decision making become difficult in terms of ethics. This paper attempts a synopsis of the basic principles of medical ethics, identifies some ethical dilemmas that doctors often encounter and discusses some strategies to address them as well as emphasizes the need for enhanced ethics education both for physicians and patients particularly in Nigeria.

METHOD:

Literature and computer programmes (Medline and PsychoInfo databases) were searched for relevant information.

RESULT:

The search showed that the fundamental principles suggested by ethicists to assist doctors to evaluate the ethics of a situation while making a decision include respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice. Although the above principles do not give answers as to how to handle a particular situation, they serve as a guide to doctors on what principles ought to apply to actual circumstances. The principles sometimes conflict with each other leading to ethical dilemmas when applied to issues such as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, professional misconduct, confidentiality truth telling, professional relationship with relatives, religion, traditional medicine and business concerns. Resolution of dilemmas demand the best of the doctor's knowledge of relevant laws and ethics, his training and experience, his religious conviction and moral principles as well as his readiness to benefit from ethics consultation and the advice of his colleagues.

CONCLUSION:

Ethics education should begin from the impressionable age in homes, continued in the medical schools and after graduation to ensure that doctors develop good ethical practices and acquire the ability to effectively handle ethical dilemmas. Also, education of patients and sanction of unethical behaviour will reduce ethical dilemmas.

PMID:
19485140
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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