8.1  Ethical dilemmas and conflicts

In the previous study session you learnt about some of the core ethical concepts. You will remember that these are autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and justice. In this section you will study more about ethical dilemmas, sometimes called ethical conflicts.

Ethical dilemmas arise when a difficult problem cannot be solved in a way that will satisfy everyone who is involved. The same dilemma might occur when a situation arises that involves a choice between equally unsatisfactory alternatives.

In ethical conflicts, the decision maker is confronted with more than one course of action that respects personal, professional and societal morality, but by deciding on one course of action the other course is harmed in some way. For example, as a Health Extension Practitioner you may face confidentiality conflicts. You are morally and legally obliged to keep patient information confidential; at the same time, you may be required to disclose sensitive information because breaking the rules of confidentiality would benefit the family or the wider community. You will be able to understand the subject better when you go through each of the following common ethical issues listed in Box 8.1. For each of these issues you will be presented with a case study to think about.

Box 8.1  Common ethical issues

  1. Practitioner–client relationship.
  2. Privacy and confidentiality.
  3. Shared decision making.
  4. Allocation of scarce resources.
  5. Stigma and illness.
  6. Reproductive health care.

Learning Outcomes for Study Session 8

8.2  Practitioner–client relationship