Legal and ethical issues: in health and social care

In the last century legal and ethical issues have been notable in health care sector. There have been a number of developments in medicine that have revolutionized the field of medical practice. This has made it possible to diagnose diseases faster and more accurately. Additionally, health sector has undergone a number of reforms which are anchored in law to boost this improvement.

legal and ethical issues in health care sector

The healthcare sector is governed by sets of rules, regulations, laws and ethical standards. Laws are designed to protect individuals when making decisions about their healthcare. In addition, they also set out the responsibilities of healthcare professionals.

Legal issues in health

The main legal issues in the healthcare system relate to medical negligence, informed consent and confidentiality. the following are few legal issues that affect the healthcare system on a regular basis:

Antitrust issues and ACOs in health

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) consist of groups of doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers, who collaborate specifically to provide coordinated high-quality care to patients. Among the several programs put forth by the healthcare laws that aim to increase healthcare quality and lower costs, the most recognizable is the accountable care organization program. The ACOs require healthcare providers to work closely to achieve coordinated care, reduced costs and increased quality.

False claims and whistle-blower suits

This refers to the National Health Service (NHS) process of detecting healthcare fraud and abuse perpetrated by dishonest physicians, healthcare providers and suppliers. Government is not sufficiently staffed to effectively detect the enormous volume of claims submitted to the governing healthcare bodies. Whistle-blower cases have proven to show that healthcare providers and suppliers have found many ways to defraud the government. Government recovers money that was paid as a result of fraudulent claims. Thus, they play a key role in the fight against healthcare fraud.

Healthcare system malpractice and tort reform

The main reason why governments work on reducing medical malpractice and have implemented tort reform is to reduce expenditure on unnecessary healthcare services. Besides reducing overall health costs, these reforms can also lead to a decrease in global malpractice risk.

Ethical issues

Ethical issues often involve the topics of confidentiality, informed consent and patient-doctor relationships. Further ,stated are some of the ethical issues that commonly arise in the healthcare system:

  • Patient confidentiality

    – A confidential relationship between physicians and their patients is essential. Confidentiality helps create a setting of trust in which a patient can share their private feelings and personal history, enabling a physician to form a diagnosis. Patient information should be available only to the physicians and other healthcare personnel as required. Therefore, a healthcare worker may be violating a patient’s confidentiality by disclosing medical information to others who should not have access to it.

  • Informed consent

    – Informed consent means providing an in-depth understanding of the risks and benefits of a treatment to a patient. This allows the patient to decide whether or not they wish to undergo a procedure. Informed consent is based on the principle that patients should have autonomy over the treatment they receive. Healthcare providers should have a document providing proof the patient has full knowledge of the risks, benefits and possible consequences of a particular treatment.

  • Physician-assisted Suicide (PAS) and euthanasia

    – Euthanasia refers to the process of a deliberately ending a patient’s life in order to relieve them of suffering. It is illegal in most countries . On the other hand, PAS is the practice of providing a competent patient with a prescription for medication that will end their life. In this case, the patient would have to self-administer the medication, directly or through a machine.

Codes of practice in health or social care setting in UK

The Code is a list of statements that describe the standards of professional conduct and practice required of those employed in social care. Social care workers are responsible for making sure that they work to the standards set out in the Code.

The Code states that workers must:

  • Respect the views and wishes, and promote the rights and interests, of individuals and carers.
  • Strive to establish and maintain the trust and confidence of individuals and carers.
  • Promote the well-being, voice and control of individuals  while supporting them to stay safe.
  • Respect the rights of individuals while seeking to ensure that their behavior does not harm themselves or other people.
  • Act with integrity and uphold public trust and confidence in the social care profession.
  • Be accountable for the quality of your work and take responsibility for maintaining and developing knowledge and skills.
  • In addition, if you are responsible for managing or leading staff, you must embed the Code in their work.


Key concepts of informed consent in health and social care

Doctors will give you information about a particular treatment or test in order for you to decide whether or not you wish to undergo a treatment or test. Informed consent is the process of understanding the risks and benefits of a treatment. Under certain circumstances, there are exceptions to the informed consent rule. The most common exceptions are these:

  • An emergency to prevent serious or irreversible harm
  • Incompetence in which someone is unable to give permission (or to refuse permission) for testing or treatment


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