Respect for autonomy, avoiding harm and promoting good, truthfulness and justice. -Kitchener K. S. (1984) Intuition, critical evaluation and ethical principles: The foundation for ethical decisions in counseling psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 12(3), 43-56. In the healing practitioner’s setting, the patient is at the core of professional practice. Whether working independently or as an employee, the healing practitioner must be aware of and respect their agreed code of ethics. Although every organization has their own set of ethics there are some overarching principles. There are six basic ethical principles: . Respect for persons (autonomy and self-determination) 2. Beneficence (doing good) 3. Nonmaleficence (avoiding harm) 4. Justice (fairness, equitability, truthfulness) 5. Veracity (telling the truth) 6. Fidelity (remaining faithful to one’s commitment) These principles serve as a guide to the healing practitioner in making ethical decisions. Below is an exploration of each point. Respect for persons: autonomy. The active belief that everyone is self governed. In essence they are responsible for making their own decisions, as in law over self, as the ancient Greek word suggests.
Although needing to be reassessed should it come into conflict with other key ethical principals, beneficence or nonmaleficence for example, it is listed first as it is the highest tenant to up-hold during therapeutic practice. Beneficence: To do actions that promote the well-being of others. In servitude of the best interest of the client. Motivated to do right actions because they are right, not because of any possible self beneficial consequences. Ideally this principle is in positive co-existence with the client’s own best interest as an autonomous being.
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Affirmation from the client will only serve to promote their own best interest, ultimately their own healing and well-being. Nonmaleficence (avoiding harm): Primum non nocere, a latin phrase meaning ‘first, do no harm’. Related to competence it is a good reminder when dealing with a sign or symptom that is out of one’s scope of training. Do more good than harm, and if it is uncertain then it is time to refer. Justice (fairness, equitability, truthfulness) John Rawls claims that “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. ^ John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (revised edn, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 3 Healing is a social institution. Justice can mean many things, from access to care, to fair treatment within that care and finally the right of the client to know the truth concerning their health, care and well-being. Veracity (telling the truth). Clients have access to the truth, records must therefore be kept, and transparent as clients ultimately have access to their files. Clients also need to feel secure in telling their truths and so therefore confidentiality and informed consent also come into play here.
Fidelity (remaining faithful to one’s commitment). Intent is clear from the start and one remains focused on the intent, remaining loyal, keeping promises, and being faithful to that care, a necessary part of the therapist-client relationship. Ideally the therapist will continue to have a deeper understanding of the benefits of these codes as their practice grows. Along the way the way healing practitioner will be faced with ethical dilemmas and decisions about care delivery, caring, and patient advocacy in planning and providing safe patient care.