Medical Ethics. Ethics Case Study

Patients’ right to information

Under the medical code of ethics, healthcare providers are under an obligation to provide truthful information to patients. In complying with the disclosure requirement, the doctors ought to inform the patient about the treatment to be availed and the side effects of such treatment. Failure to disclose such information to a client amounts to the infringement of the patient’s right to information (Pattinson, 2006). However, certain information may be withheld if it is likely to cause harm to a patient. In this case, the nurse’s decision to withhold the information was not in good faith since it was not meant to mitigate the risks, but avoid resistance from the patient. The nurse is liable for damages to the patient for infringement of her right to truthful information.

Principle of Autonomy

The medical code of ethics requires that healthcare providers to respect the patients’ right to choose the kind of treatment they want. In this regard, doctors have to consult patients before availing certain types of medications that may cause harm to the recipient (Stirrat & Gill, 2005). All patients, who are capable of making sound decisions, are entitled to the right to be involved in decision-making. In the case study, the patient could make a decision regarding the treatment that would be availed to her. However, the nurse overlooked the right of the patient to making such decision and administered a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). Mrs. Fraser can sue the nurse for damages for infringement of her right to self-determination. In civil cases, the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff. Thus, the patient has to prove that her rights were infringed. Mrs. Fraser would rely on the following two facts to succeed in her suit against the nurse

  • The nurse withheld material information about the treatment
  • The nurse denied her the right to choose the treatment to be administered


Even though the nurse infringed the mentioned rights, s/he can rely on the principle of beneficence to justify his/her decision to apply PCA. The principle of beneficence requires healthcare providers to utilize anything at their disposal to ensure that the patient derives maximum benefits from the provided intervention. Research indicates that patients suffering from severe pain have lower chances of disclosing useful information about their health status (Pattinson, 2006). By administering the PCA treatment, the nurse improved the client’s outcome since the patient could now give better information about her condition. The information given would then guide the nurse in making the right decisions on the best treatment option.


The principle of non-maleficence requires medical practitioners to ensure that the risk inherent to a patient is minimized at all costs. In this case, the nurse could rely on the mentioned principle to avoid civil liability. The nurse was under an obligation to minimize the overall pain. However, the nurse must prove that the decision was made in good faith, and it was meant to help relieve the patient from the pain. S/he must also prove that the benefits of the treatment outweighed the risks inherent and the decision did not expose the patient to harm. Untreated pain may result in complications such as cardiac failure and endocrine disorders not to mention that it may derail the treatment outcome. Additionally, severe pain may mark the onset of chronic pain issues for a patient, hence the need to administer PCA (Mason, Laurie, & Smith, 2013). Effective pain management involves the administration of the appropriate medication in the right dosage.


Mason, K., Laurie, G., & Smith, A. (2013). Mason and McCall Smith’s law and medical ethics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Pattinson, S. D. (2006). Medical law & ethics. London, UK: Sweet & Maxwell.

Stirrat, M., & Gill, R. (2005). Autonomy in medical ethics after O’Neill. Journal of Medical Ethics, 31(3), 127-130.

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NursingBird. "Medical Ethics. Ethics Case Study." May 8, 2022.