Ethical aspects of emergency medical care.

Abdus Salam Khan, MD FACP
August, 2017

While providing care for our patients as doctors, nurses, staff and technicians what is the expectations of our patients. Although everyone expects the problem that they are facing should go away but in real sense the problem sometimes does not hurt as much as our attitude hurt our patients.

The expectations of a patient from the healthcare system are always compassionate care. Mostly because when they are going through a very rough time with their sickness, the last thing they expect is an uninterested doctor or a nurse. Our sense of duty to our patients should be our ethical and moral responsibility. In order to fulfill our responsibility we need to understand the ethical principles governing healthcare all over the world. Among all ethical principles the following four are considered core of the medical ethics. These include:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Beneficence
  3. Non-maleficence.
  4. Justice

Let us talk about these principles so that we understand them in a bit deeper way.


As the healthcare provider may have the responsibility to make sure that our patients make decisions which are informed and free of coercion. Every patient has the right to choose or refuse any treatment or part of the treatment. In our Pakistani situation it is hard for the patients as well as treating physicians to understand this phenomena. Usually it results in a conflict between the patient and the care provider when the patients autonomy is not respected.


This ethical principle means that all actions of physicians nurses technicians and everyone getting for a patient has to be in the best interest of the patient. It means they all try to do good for the patient. This requires everyone caring for the patients to acquire and update knowledge so that they can provide the best care to the patients in the best possible way.


This ethical principle assumes that everyone getting for the patients will make sure that their actions don’t harm any patient. It is the most difficult ethical principle, as we take plenty of decisions in order to care for the patient which turn out to have either a side effect or an untoward effect and can be seen as harming the patient. A careful balance requires knowledgeable and caring people working with their utmost attention and utilizing best skills.


This ethical principle is also difficult to practice, because as the healthcare professionals we should provide treatment to all segments of the society in a fair way. In other words, we should always try to do most for the most. It is difficult because of the design of our society and so we favor the rich and the powerful and neglect the poor.

There are other ethical issues associated with providing medical care but these four are the core principles that are applied on day to day care of the patients. While working the emergency departments these ethical considerations become more important due to time limited and emergency nature of their problems.

For all my esteemed readers, it is my advice to promote the ethical dimension of the care, as we are the advocate of our patients and should be working with our patients to help them make informed decision, do good for them and avoid harm. At the same time do most for the most.

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