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Legal-Ethical Issues Affecting Patient Rights for the Elderly Essay

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Updated: Jan 31st, 2019

Ethics is an important part of the field of nursing; it concerns moral aspects of people behavior and attitudes. As practice shows, there are often ethical dilemmas related to personal responsibilities and freedoms.

Every patient has their legal rights and every nurse practitioner is to respect those rights regardless of gender and age of the patient (Kapp, 2000). It is important that elderly patients and their loved ones be aware of the ethical issues that may arise and be ready to cope with them. Healthcare professionals working with the elderly face complex situations related to many legal and ethical issues.

The moral and legal standards for people caring for the elderly remain critical for ensuring that older persons access quality services. Ethical issues are a commonplace in our modern society. People who respect moral issues are frequently confronted with situations requiring them to make ethical choices. It is a commonplace to find some people confronted with ethical dilemmas (Kapp, 2000).

Older adults are frequently more susceptible to those than the average people are. The people who are trusted to care for the older adults sometimes take advantage of the older person’s condition for different reasons (Tabloski, 2010). The legal and ethical issues that affect patient rights of the elderly include confidentiality, informed consent, relationships, and medical code.

Confidentiality is one of the legal and moral issues that affect the patients’ rights for the elderly. Healthcare professionals should normally keep details about their elderly clients confidential. They should show respect for the autonomy of their elderly clients. Disclosing information about patients is legally and morally incorrect (Tabloski, 2010). However, healthcare professionals are sometimes confronted with the legal and ethical dilemma of having to release information about their patients to the family members.

Healthcare malpractice is also both a legal and moral issue that affects the patient rights for the elderly (Pozgar, 2010). The professionals who offer healthcare services to older persons must always put safety and health of their clients first.

Injuries related to medical processes, the use of faulty equipment or medicine, and deliberate acts that cause harm to the elderly have both legal and moral consequences (Kapp, 2000). Healthcare professionals practice defensive medicine to avoid litigations from the family members of their elderly patients who may allege negligence.

The law protects the concept of informed consent in healthcare profession because it is both a legal and moral issue. All patients must give consent to permit treatment to take place (Pozgar, 2010). However, informed consent presents many challenges for healthcare professionals who work with the elderly because it has serious legal and moral implications.

Sometimes the elderly cannot give consent to sanction their treatment because they may be too weak. The elderly person, who requires surgery but cannot offer consent, presents the healthcare professionals with serious dilemmas (Kapp, 2000). When treating an elderly person, doctors face potential dilemma between morality and the law.

The kind of relationship that healthcare professionals can have with their elderly clients can have legal and moral implications in relation to patient rights for the elderly (Kapp, 2000). Associating with the elderly clients is protected by the medical code of ethics. Healthcare professionals who violate the ethical codes with their elderly clients face the risk of being disqualified from the roll of practitioners.

The Purpose of Advanced Directives

If a serious medical condition does not allow people to take decisions regarding their treatment, this responsibility goes to the patient’s relatives. If there are no relatives, the physician or the hospital can fall responsible for your further treatment.

However, preparing An Advance Directive is a way to predict such a situation and make sure that only you will be responsible for your end of life treatment. The Advance Directive will provide guidance to those responsible for the patient’s treatment when he/she is unable to make decisions independently.

Advance Directives entail the legal papers where people spell out their decisions in relation to the end of life healthcare services in advance. The fundamental reason why people draw advance directives is to ensure that they can access the specific treatment they want, as well as refuse healthcare services they do not want. (Tabloski, 2010). . It is significant in reducing confusion during the end of life healthcare provision. Advance directives are a commonplace in the elderly healthcare service delivery. (Tabloski, 2010).

The application of advance directives remains crucial to the provision of quality healthcare to the elderly. The notable issues that advance directives cover include the application of breathing machines to prolong the life of older persons. The elderly can also spell out whether they would permit healthcare professionals to perform resuscitation procedure on them should they face breathing problems. Furthermore, the elderly can declare whether they would permit maintenance of their life using tube feeding (Tabloski, 2010).

It is notable that sometimes healthcare professionals make decisions to ignore advance directives drafted by the elderly. This is a commonplace in scenarios where doctors consider such directives irrelevant based on their moral standards.

It is also possible for doctors to refuse directives because of misinterpretation of the law and inconsistencies associated with moral consciences and professional responsibilities (Rai & Rai, 2009). It is advisable that elderly people share their advance directives with their doctors to get opinion on whether they can accept their proposals.

Advance directives also allow the elderly to choose their medical proxies who can make treatment decisions on their behalf. The individual selected as a medical proxy enjoys the durable power of attorney for healthcare because they can make decisions on behalf of the elderly (Rai & Rai, 2009). Medical proxies can only have the power to make such decisions after the doctors have declared that the elderly person cannot make treatment choices on their own.

Advance directives contain various advantages. The document is significant as it shows the direction people would want their treatment to take. Healthcare professionals can determine the road according to the thoughts and ideas about death and treatment choices made by the person drawing the directive.

The fact that people have varying values and beliefs is also considered during drafting of the directives. Elderly people can lose decision-making ability when they become seriously ill (Swota, 2009). Therefore, the directive is the only way they can maintain control of their treatment desires and options during the time when they are less competent and conscious.

The document also reduces stress and misunderstanding among family members in relation to their varying decisions on appropriate treatment and care for their older person (Swota, 2009). The document is critical for enabling family members, who may undergo emotional breakdown during such times, find easy ways of handling their decision-making challenges in relation to their sick family member.

References

Kapp, M. B. (2000). Geriatrics and the law: Understanding patient rights and professional responsibilities. New York, NY: Springer Pub. Co.

Pozgar, G. D. (2010). Legal and ethical issues for health professionals. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Rai, G. S., & Rai, G. S. (2009). Medical ethics and the elderly. Oxford: Radcliffe Pub.

Swota, A. H. (2009). Culture, ethics, and advance care planning. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Tabloski, P. (2010). Gerontological Nursing (2nd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Health Science.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Legal-Ethical Issues Affecting Patient Rights for the Elderly." January 31, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/legal-ethical-issues-affecting-patient-rights-for-the-elderly/.

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