Principles of beneficence and non-maleficence

Essay by Omaru5University, Bachelor'sB+, July 2014

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In order to have a common basis of understanding some words need to be defined:

Beneficence: The action of helping others and performing actions that would result in benefit to another person.

Non-maleficence: The avoidance of causing harm or evil by doing a certain action or by not doing any action at all.

Physician: is a professional who practices medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments.

Tort : A civil wrong committed against a person or property, excluding breach of contract.

Beneficence and Non-maleficence

As the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence are closely related, they are discussed together in this section. Beneficence involves balancing the benefits of treatment against the risks and costs involved, whereas non-maleficence means avoiding the causation of harm. As many treatments involve some degree of harm, the principle of non-maleficence would imply that the harm should not be disproportionate to the benefit of the treatment.

Respecting the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence may in certain circumstances mean failing to respect a person's autonomy i.e. respecting their views about a particular treatment. For example, it may be necessary to provide treatment that is not desired in order to prevent the development of a future, more serious health problem. The treatment might be unpleasant, uncomfortable or even painful but this might involve less harm to the patient than would occur, were they not to have it.

In cases where the patient lacks legal competence to make a decision, medical staffs are expected to act in the best interests of the patient. In doing so, they may take into account the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence. However, it would be helpful for medical staff in such cases, if...