In their daily work, healthcare professionals often have to deal with ethical issues and dilemmas. Often it is difficult to recognize and discuss these issues. How do you think about good care within your organisation?
Think about good care
Ethics is thinking about which norms and values determine your day-to-day care. This can and should include everything; from big questions about life to small, daily choices. For instance, who should you help first if two people need attention at the same time?
Healthcare has become more complex, with many and sometimes difficult ethical choices to be made. In long-term care, the number and gravity of ethical questions is also increasing. This is the result of all kinds of developments and new insights. For example, people are now living longer, accumulating health problems more often, wanting to reside at home, and more dependent on family care. In addition, the shift to person-centred care means that we must constantly weigh what is good, suitable care for a particular client, rather than a notional “average” client.
From God to guide
The role of healthcare professionals has clearly shifted in this respect. In the past, the doctor’s judgment was paramount. However, around the 1960s, that idea began to change. Patients have become more articulate and they want a voice in treatment options. Nowadays, healthcare professionals have a much more guiding role. Their patients will no longer simply accept everything they recommend. In fact, they will often search the internet for information about their condition and sometimes decide upon a course of action that is quite separate from what the doctor recommends. For example, a client may choose to stop treatment altogether, even tough they realise this means they will not live so long. For them, in accordance with their own values, other matters outweigh longevity.
These days, healthcare professionals find themselves playing a guiding role.
Ethics as an aid
Both healthcare professionals and clients must make choices all day long. What do you do as a caregiver, for instance, if a client no longer wants to eat? And how is this decision affected if the client’s family urges you to intervene? From the patient’s point of view there are other questions. How can you make the right choice between all the treatment options? Care-Metric recommends you put on your ethical glasses at times like these. Which values play a role? What are the different points of view and what are the options?
Ultimately, the key question is not what is right, in some idealised sense, but: what is good and appropriate care for this person with this life story?
This text is an abridged and adapted translation of an article written by Alies Struis on the Vilans Website.