As one of the main principles that govern the mode of operation of doctors, the principle of non-maleficence continues to be exposed to immense criticism. This follows various loopholes and benefits that are related to it. Thus, both its critics and supporters continue to address the various strengths and weaknesses that are attached to it (Lanzerath, 2013). As such, an insight into non-maleficence is vital for the adjustment of areas of weakness that are associated with it. Consequently, this is significant in ensuring that future problems that may arise from the application of this principle are addressed efficiently.
Non-maleficence seems to possess areas of weaknesses and strengths. This principle is complex and lacks well-defined guidelines on circumstances that need its use. As such, medical professionals may be confronted with tough decision-making situations in relation to when it should be applied. Besides, it lacks a clear expression of its objective as it covers multiple dimensions of injury, but does not explain the types that should be avoided (Chiovitti, 2011). In addition, this theory cannot operate independent of other principles like beneficence, which hold robust moral and legal grounds. On the other hand, non-maleficence provides a suitable platform on which medics can handle patients appropriately. Moreover, its focus on ethics ensures that medical professionals avoid excesses in their operations. This is vital in settling issues of ethics that concern medics.
Legal consequences that are linked to non-maleficence vary from one nation to the other. However, some aspects of the legal ramifications, which are associated with the breach of this principle, are same in many countries. These effects include imprisonment and revoking of medical professionals’ licenses by the government. Contrastingly, one of the main issues that emerge from the legal consequences of this theory concerns the penalizing of individuals based on an unclear principle. This issue stems from the fact that the theory does not provide a clear guideline on harms, which should be avoided by medical professionals (Chiovitti, 2011). As such, many medics can commit offences without their knowledge or because of ignorance. Therefore, legal punishments that may originate from offenses related to the breach of non-maleficence may be unfair to medics. On the other hand, the principle provides a robust ground on which the welfare of patients can be addressed. This is because it ensures that healthcare providers handle patients with caution during treatment, which is a fundamental need in medical ethics. Besides, breaching of medical ethics may lead to career terminations on the part of medics by relevant authorities.
The theory of non-maleficence offers a reliable mechanism that can be used to address the welfare of patients, since it embraces the aspect of humanity and encourages the treatment of patients in a humane manner. Humans require friendly treatment during medical operations, which helps in eliminate the fear of medical processes. On the other hand, the principle does not provide clear rules on the nature of injuries that should be avoided. This creates confusion as injury covers spiritual, physical, and emotional aspects (Lanzerath, 2013). In addition, medics’ prioritization of this theory over other principles such as beneficence, justice, and autonomy is inappropriate. This is because non-maleficence can achieve optimum efficiency when integrated with other principles, which help medics adhere to aspects of responsibility, self-confidence, and accountability.
A review needs to be done so that the theory of non-maleficence can be integrated with other principles to achieve maximum efficiency (Lanzerath, 2013). The principle should be established based on clear rules that define the nature of injuries to avoid confusion on the part of medics. Furthermore, the principle should be developed in a way that reveals situations when it can be applied.
I will use this information is will in addressing future problems that medics can encounter in their profession. It will help me point out circumstances when I can apply the theory, and nature of injuries that should be avoided. Moreover, this information will help me establish a non-maleficence principle with optimum efficiency.
From the argument advanced herein, it emerges clearly that the principle of non-maleficence should be reviewed to ensure that areas of weakness, which are associated with it, are eliminated. This is essential in ensuring that the theory works to the benefit of both medics and patients, since presently, it is faced with a myriad of inconsistencies, arguments, and criticisms. However, it is agreeable that if it is applied appropriately and with caution, non-maleficence can be a very crucial tool in reforming the healthcare profession, for the benefit of both patients and healthcare providers.
Chiovitti, F. (2011). Theory of Protective Empowering For Balancing Patient Safety and Choices. Nursing Ethics, 18(1) 88-101.
Lanzerath, D. (2013). Ethical Principles of the Management of Incidental Findings in Research. World Medical Journal, 59(4) 149-152.