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Medical Ethics

Overview

Health care ethics (a.k.a “medical ethics”) is the application of the core principles of bioethics (autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice) to medical and health care decisions. It is a multidisciplinary lens through which to view complex issues and make recommendations regarding a course of action.

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Decision-Making Capacity

Decision-making capacity is a clinical assessment regarding an individual’s ability to make informed decisions about their care. Decisional capacity is directly linked to informed consent and is decision dependent.

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Right to Refuse

Every adult, even those who lack decision-making capacity, has the right to refuse treatment. There are some circumstances where an individual’s right of refusal may be overridden by the health care team.

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Withholding & Withdrawing Treatment

There is no moral, ethical or legal difference between deciding not to start a life-sustaining treatment and deciding to stop that treatment after it has been started. Any treatment that is not benefiting a person or is no longer achieving a desired goal can be stopped.

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Physician Assisted Death (PAD)

Vermont is now one of several states that permits a terminally ill, capable adult to request and obtain a lethal prescription for medication to self-administer for the purpose of hastening their own death.

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Rural Health Care Ethics

Rural health care ethics focuses on health care ethics uncertainty or conflicts occurring in the distinct context of the rural setting. What makes rural health care ethics different is how the rural environment influences both the presentation and the response to ethics conflicts.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to more questions about health care ethics can be found here.

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