Ethics is one of the fundamental aspects of nursing. It is expected of all individual nurses to respect their patients, maintain the dignity of the patients and at the same time protect the rights of the patients. Nurses are expected to develop an environment that is based on mutual trust and respect between the healthcare professionals and the patients. Researchers are of the opinion that patients entrust their autonomy as well as dignity on the healthcare professionals and therefore, nurses are expected to guard their privacy, thereby listen to the concerns and thereby consider the wishes of the clients that remain concerned with the care they receive (Halloway and Galvin 2016). This assignment will thereby show how breaching of the principle of ethics can result in different negative effects resulting in affecting the morale of patient and trust relationship with the professionals.
Privacy can be defined as the right of individuals in keeping their own health information private. On the other hand, confidentiality can be defined as the duty of anyone who is entrusted with particular health data and information of the patient for keeping that information safe, private, secure and not share with anyone. Researchers are of the opinion that patient confidentiality is indeed one of the most significant bioethical principle of medicine and healthcare. Protection of the private details of the service users is not only an important aspect of moral respect but is also significant to retain the important bond of trust between the healthcare professionals as well as the individual patients (Mallari et al. 2016). The ethical duty of confidentiality mainly refers to the obligation of an individual as well as the organisation for safeguarding the entrusted information. The maintenance of confidentiality is mainly seen to include obligations that would help to protect information from the unauthorised access, use, disclosure, loss, modification or theft. The national Privacy act of 1998 is an Australian law that mainly helps in regulating the handling of personal information about citizens of the nation. According to the law set by the Australian governmental system, personal information can be defined as the information or an opinion about an identified individual as well as individual who is reasonably identifiable (Westrick 2016). This act is mainly seen to comprise of thirteen important privacy Principles. These Australian Privacy Principles are seen to set out standards, obligations, rights mainly for handling, holding, using, accessing as well as correction or personal information that include sensitive information.
Handling of personal information in medical research as well as healthcare sectors are also important criteria that come under the situations. In the case study, it is seen that nursing professional named Sharni conducted an unethical as well as illegal activity by not following the legal rules that are set by not only the healthcare department but also by the national and common law (Ramos et al. 2015). It is seen that A patient named Carla was handled by a nursing professional who was a colleague of the professional named Sharni. Sharni was interested to know the reason of admission of the Carla and therefore in an unethical way, she accessed the file of Carla and came to know that she was admitted due to rupture in ectopic pregnancy. She even did not only remain contented with the information and exposed the information to the social media sympathising with her situation. However, in the course of sympathising, she breached her confidentiality and made her health information public (aliakbari et al. 2015). This breach can be well linked with the personal information that mainly concerns on the use or disclosure of personal information. This principle was states that when a personal information is gained for one particular reason, the entity should never use it or disclose it for another purpose. The only exception is that the patient herself consents to it. This principle was breached the professional named Sharni as the information that was documented for Carla’s treatment for ectopic pregnancy issue was realised on social media. Therefore, she breached the principle that can result in filing of lawsuit against her by the patient. The principle numbered 11 was also breached which was based on the security of the information. The staff nurse who had the information about Carla also did not conduct her work properly as she did not ensure that the documents were secured. Even Sharni had accessed it; it was her duty to prevent further misuse, interference or loss of the information. Therefore, it can be seen that Carla’s information was made public, her confidentiality was breached and her health information was exposed (Chadwick and gallagahr 2016). The patient had not given consent in sharing of the information with others n the healthcare centre or even on a public medium like social networking sites. By the term consent in the specific area, it means that the patient has now allowed the healthcare professionals to share them with others and had also not given them the permission to make it public. Therefore, the healthcare professional should undergo legal obligation and she should be penalised heavily for not maintaining the legal principles and making sensitive information private.
Privacy can be defined as the right or interest in controlling as well as limiting the access of others to oneself. Confidentiality can be defined as the duty of someone who had received certain confidential information with trust to protect the information as well as to disclose the other individuals only in accordance with permissions, rules as well as laws authorising its disclosure. Consent on the other hand need to be defined as the knowledge and approval of an individual required for the collection and then using the information for disclosure of the personal information, except when inappropriate (Scruth et al. 2015). The bioethical principle of confidentiality and privacy states that every healthcare professional have the duty to safeguard information that is obtained in different contexts of the nurse-patient relationship. When patients are seen to entrust the healthcare sector with their health information, they are seen to expect and thereby rely on them to keep them confidential and private. Trust is one of the core professional values in the nursing professionals. Trust is indeed one of the most important factors that help in development of therapeutic relationship with patients (Baker et al. 2016). Researchers have therefore stated that the ethical principles of confidentiality and honesty are helpful in developing the main foundations of a trusting relationship with the nurse and the patient. Patients have the right to expect that the healthcare professional will maintain privacy with the information. Researchers are of the opinion that a large number of negative effects may results when nursing professionals cannot maintain the confidentiality of patients (Johnstone et al. 2016). Respect of confidentiality is indeed important for the safeguarding of the well-being of patients and helps to ensure that the society can continue to trust the nurse- client relationship. When nurses are seen to breach confidentiality and leak information of patients to third parties, they can have negative outcomes on patient’s life. Improper disclosure of the information can affect the reputation of the patient. It may also result in loss of opportunities, different forms of personal humiliations as well as financial commitments (Nyangeni et al. 2015). Disclosing different information like lifestyle of the patient, habits and other recreational activities may affect the lives of patients in different negative ways. In this case study, Carla’s information was leaked on social media without her consent and hence Sharni can be held accountable for breaching ethical guidelines and do not following the principles of bioethics and ethical guidelines of international council of nurses codes of ethics. For her activity, Carla can go through several negative situations in her life that could have been avoided if such breaches would not have taken place. The international council of nursing had also proposed codes of ethics in the year 2012 where they have stated that the importance of the nurses to hold in confidence the personal information and thereby use proper judgment and decision-making skills when sharing or disclosing this information to third parties (Abou et al. 2017). They should use proper recording as well information management systems that ensure confidentiality. In the case, it was seen that the nurses who were treating Carla had also not used the proper system for the storage of the disorder and hence this had resulted in easy access of Sharni to use the information. Moreover, it was also seen that Sharni had conducted an ethical breach by revealing the information on social media affecting the dignity of the patient.
Justice can be defined as the ethical principle of fairness that states that nurses need to be fair when they distribute care. The care should be equally distributed fairly, justly as well as equitably distributed among the patients. In the case study, Sharni did not maintain justice through her activity. She was not fair with the patient and did not conduct a just action. She exposed information of Carla and such an activity was an unfair action towards a patient on basis of breaching her human rights. Moreover, another important principle is called autonomy and dignity. Through this ethical principle, a professional mainly accepts the client as a unique person who has the unique right to have their own opinions, beliefs, values, perspectives and others (Nyangeni et al. 2015). Their wishes should be the first priority making them the centre of descuion making providing them respect and compassion. The dignity and autonomy of the patient was not at all maintained. The professionals has neither taken consent from the patient before discussing it on social media and had neither considered her important and cared for the conditions she can face if information is leaked. Therefore, the professional should have considered the dignity and autonomy of the patient and should not have conducted the activity. Beneficence is doing good to patient ensuring that the safest and high quality care is provided to patient. The nursing professional did not at all provide good quality safe care to the patient and in turn exposed her to unsafe situations (Johnstone et al. 2016). Her information was leaked and this exposed her to unsafe practices. Therefore, it can be stated that the professionals did not follow beneficence in her activity. Non-maleficence is the ethical principle that expects every nurse to refrain from doing harm and causing suffering to patients both ensuring that the quality of life of patient is not affected (Scruth et al. 2015). The action of the nurse of revealing the information may result in different suffering of the patient in her personal life which may make her go through various emotional and mental pressures besides going through physical issues. Hence, the professionals did not maintain the bioethical principles in the case study.
The Australian Health Practitioner regulation agency has also published a professional policy guideline for the proper use of social media. It helps to guide them of the different negative effects that may take place due to their ignorance or lack of idea about how to restrict passing of information. It is clearly mentioned in the guideline with the name of professional obligations. Under it, it is clearly written that nurses should follow the code of conduct that contains the guidance about the required standards of the professional behaviour and have advised them to be extra careful when communicating both in person or on online (Ozair et al. 2015). The code of conduct has clearly mentioned the importance of maintaining privacy and confidentiality of the patients especially when during the use of social media. They have provided experience to make the professionals understand the typical actions that they should refrain from taking like posting unauthorised photographs of patients in any medium, prevent spreading if information in any Facebook site of group even when the privacy is set on highest limit and many others. Therefore, it becomes extremely important for the professionals to follow the guidelines set by the APHRA social media policy so that they do not get involved any of wrong illegal as well as unethical practices. Had the nurse been aware of the guidelines she should have maintained while handling the patient information, such issue would not have occurred and Carla’s health information would have been safe. Under the section of cultural practice and respectful relationships, the NMBA broad has put a detailed section of the points that every nursing professionals should remember while practicing (Reamer 2017). They have clearly stated that nurses should respect the confidentiality and privacy of the patients and should take informed consent before disclosing any information. Here, they have clearly stated that nurses should abide by the NMBA social media policy as well as relevant standards of practice. This is extremely important to ensure the use of social media in a way by which nurses do not get involved in any ethical and legal obligations for protection of privacy. The NMBA social media policy has even stated that nurses should not use any information of patients, share or produce them or cannot use any photographs even if the person is not directly named or even if person is not made identifiable. One should first take written consent of the patients and then can proceed with the disclosure of the patients (Atkins et al. 2017). In the case study, it is clearly seen that patient’s information was exposed on met and the nurse did not follow the professional core values of maintaining confidentiality and privacy of the patient. She has openly provided and information on the social media to Carla’s Facebook page that might create various issues. She did not follow the codes of conduct guidelines and hence, it becomes extremely important for the nurses like Sharni to properly be educated and knowledgeable about the nursing core values so that they can rightly provide respect, care service and develop trust in the patient effectively (Dheensa et al. 2016). Carla may file a lawsuit on the nurse or may complain to healthcare sectors in ways by which the career of the nurse may come in stake.
From the entire discussion above it may be stated that nursing professionals have the duty to maintain the confidentiality as well as the privacy of the patients. Patients often go through severe mental, emotional and financial turmoil if situations like breaches in confidentiality take place. The privacy act of 1998 holds this issue as a legal obligation that exposed nurses to penalty. Moreover, the international council of nurses and the APHRA social media policy and then NMBA standards had shown the importance of following of proper guidelines of processional conduct and social media use so that such breaches do not take place.
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