Parents’ Health Beliefs as a Contemporary Issue
Subject: Medical Ethics
Communication between patients, their parents, and care providers often results in ethical issues or dilemmas. In the case discussed by Krawiec and Levi (2018), the patient’s mother has false beliefs about her daughter’s health condition and capacity. This leads to her making choices that could be potentially harmful to the patient, such as crushing pills into a paste instead of using injections (Krawiec & Levi, 2018). The primary issue described in the case is parents’ false beliefs and their impact on patient’s health and medical care.
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My ethical position is that care providers should seek to educate parents in order to promote better patient outcomes. Indeed, parents might disagree with clinicians on some issues, but this mostly occurs when they do not have enough information. For example, in the case, the mother did not know that her daughter’s condition has worsened and she now has difficulty swallowing (Krawiec & Levi, 2018). Thus, it is essential for clinical professionals to prioritize patients’ needs and to improve parents’ understanding of the situation to facilitate optimal decision-making. In my practice, this scenario is particularly evident when I tend to children who have an acute illness. Due to their anxiety, parents often insist on a particular treatment, such as antibiotics, even when it is not recommended. There are also cases where parents refuse treatment or refuse to vaccinate their children because of their inadequate knowledge about the importance of treatment and vaccinations. In these cases, agreeing with parents often means harming the patients, and thus I always try to explain my position to parents and provide clinical evidence. My position on the issue is based on legal, ethical, and professional evidence. Legally, parents or guardians are the main medical decision-makers for children or adults who are incapable of voicing their preferences (Krawiec & Levi, 2018). However, it is illegal for them to intentionally cause harm to children, and it is also unlawful for care providers to harm patients on purpose. Therefore, from a legal viewpoint, parents and care providers should take action that benefits the patient and would not cause any harm. American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics also stipulates that nurses should always seek to protect the patient’s interests (ANA, 2015). Ensuring that the parents’ also act in the patient’s best interests would contribute to this goal. Professional evidence, in this case, is that care providers usually have more medical knowledge and experience to understand the consequences of different treatment options. Hence, it is their duty to educate patients and their parents to enable them to make an optimal choice. As evidenced above, the issue of parents’ false beliefs also brings to light the issue of patient autonomy. There are several strategies that can be useful for addressing this ethical issue. Firstly, care providers should offer information and education to parents and support their professional opinion with evidence. Secondly, care providers should seek to understand the nature of parents’ false beliefs. As noted by Krawiec and Levi (2018), parents’ false beliefs might be caused by grief or anxiety. In this case, the best strategy would be to provide emotional support to parents and explain the importance of acting in the patient’s best interests. Both solutions would help to find common ground with patients’ parents and encourage them to make the right decision. Overall, the case shows the consequences resulting from parents’ false beliefs. The lack of information, as well as stress and anxiety, can lead patients’ parents to make wrong choices regarding treatment, thus putting patients at risk. To resolve this ethical problem, nurses should educate parents and provide evidence in support of their position. They should also seek to understand the nature of parents’ false beliefs and offer emotional support to parents if needed.
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References American Nurses Association (ANA). (2015). Code of Ethics for nurses. Web. Krawiec, C., & Levi, B. (2018). How should clinicians address a parent’s false belief generated by denial or grief about how to care well for a child? AMA Journal of Ethics, 20(11), 1017-1024.