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In its simplest context, law can be defined as enforced rules devised by the State to govern the behavior of its members for the mutual benefits of all. Thus, in medicine, it is imperative that both medical law and ethics be upheld because, despite their distinctive roles, they overlap in many areas, and it is indeed difficult to dissociate the legal and ethical basis of the professional duties of the medical practitioners. For example, both law and medical ethics address to issues of confidentiality, euthanasia, abortion, use of dangerous drugs, and medical malpractice (Flight, 137).
Medical law and ethics has developed over the recent years into a well based discipline, which acts as a bridge between theoretical bioethics and the bedside. The goal is to ultimately improve the quality of patient care by distinguishing, analyzing, and attempting to resolve the ethical problems that occur in practice. In addition to the moral obligations, doctors are also bound by laws and official regulations, which structure the legal framework regulating medical practice. It is currently a universal agreement that legal and ethical considerations are intrinsic and inseparable parts of good medical practice across the whole spectrum. The order of law and ethics in medical practice overlap in many areas and yet each has its inimitable parameters and distinct focus. Law and medical ethics are both dynamic and are in a constant state of change with time due to changing circumstances and societal values (Flight, 257).
Thus, new legislation and court decisions give rise to changes of the law and new ethical issues emerge in response to challenges created by new technology, law or other influences. There is a wide difference in law from country to country because of factors regarding religion, culture, traditions, political systems and social standards. It is also crucial to remember that the scope of law and ethics in medical practice is also expanding all the time. Any attempt in listing out the core topics can neither be complete nor prescriptive. Some topics are of interest to doctors of all specialties, whilst some topics are more important to particular specialties.
The daily practice of health care delivery, not only by the practitioners, but by all those included in the profession, is entirely based upon a rapport of mutual trust involving patients and health care providers. Patients pose a right to expect that information about them will be held in confidence by health care practitioners. Confidentiality is central to trust between practitioners and patients. Without assurances about confidentiality, patients may be reluctant to give practitioners the information they require to provide good care. The word profession can be defined as, a devotion, pledge or commitment publicly made.
To qualify as a good health care practitioner, entails a life-long dedication to sound professional and ethical practices, and a prevailing devotion to the wellbeing of fellow human beings and, generally, the society at large. Inside the structure of professional morals, examining the code of confidentiality translates to keeping information provided by or about an individual in the course of a professional association sheltered and secret from others. The requirement to uphold confidentiality does not usually end with the individual's death.
Confidentiality is owed equally to mature and immature minors and adults who do not have the capability to make decisions on behalf of them. It, as well, applies to fellow experts and students studying to come into one’s profession. It applies to any form of communication, be it spoken, on paper, digital and videotapes, that is, anything that can be linked to a specific individual. Many improper disclosures are unintentional, thus, it is advised not to discuss information about patients where they can be overheard or leave patients records where they are vulnerable to disclosure, either on paper or electronically, where they can be seen by other patients, unauthorized health care personnel or the public. Health care practitioners are, in turn, advised to make an effort to ensure that their consultations with patients are private (Tippett, 17).
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- Dr. Mohamed Sood (Author), 2013, The Confidentiality Rule for Patients, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/215959