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Paramedics are the licensed healthcare specialists who offer patients paramount prehospital progressive life sustenance. They are highly skilled prehospital providers, principally in the prehospital non-hospital environment, who primarily work as part of the emergency medical services. Paramedics go through an extensive training that encompasses 1,100 training hours, 500 college-based exam hours, and pre-requisite college classes that deal with emergency training (Greaves, Hodgetts, Porter, & Woollard, 2006). The paramedic licensing comprises different specialties, such as Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Critical Care Paramedic, and Advanced Cardiac Life Support, among others (Morrison & Furlong, 2014). The care that the paramedics provide to patients is equalized to the care provided in the emergency rooms. They offer services such as endotracheal intubation, surgical airways, peripheral transcutaneous pacing, needle chest decompression, 12 lead EKG acquisition, IV fluid therapy, manual defibrillation, mechanical ventilation, and so on (Greaves et al., 2006). Paramedics are also required to follow ethical and legal rules, regulations, and guidelines in their practice. Thus, the purpose of the current paper is to define and discuss how ethical and legal issues affect the paramedics’ prehospital practice.
Ethical Aspects Influencing Healthcare Professionals’ Prehospital Practice
Ethics refers to moral codes that govern an individual behavior, as well as define what is right and wrong (Curtis & Ramsden, 2011). On the other hand, bioethics is a branch of ethics that deals with the studies of ethics that were developed with the advancement in medicine and biology. Bioethics encompasses a wide range of medical issues such as abortion, cloning, organ donation, euthanasia, genetic testing, and surrogacy (Curtis & Ramsden, 2011). Medical care is grounded on various applications and the relationship between patients and healthcare providers. In most cases, the decisions are made solely depending on personal philosophies, traditions, and commitments (Curtis & Ramsden, 2011). Nonetheless, in some cases, patients and doctors have different opinions, which leads to the occurrence of ethical issues, hence making it difficult to operate efficiently (Greaves et al., 2006). Thus, the discussion of key ethical principles is crucial for competent professional practice. In the paramedic setting, four ethical principles can be outlined, namely the respect for autonomy, justice, beneficence, and nonmaleficence. The current paper focuses on justice and beneficence/nonmaleficence.
Justice refers to the concerns over distributing health resources, which are sometimes scarce, and deciding who should make use of the resources first (Erbay, 2014). Prehospital emergency caregivers are required to follow the law, uphold the spirit of the prevalent justice, and be fair to all parties involved. Justice is a primary ethical aspect, and the healthcare providers should try as much as possible to be fair to everyone (Morrison & Furlong, 2014). Paramedics are advised to take into consideration the following four factors when applying justice fair distribution of the limited resources, contending needs, privileges and responsibilities, and the conventional regulation (Curtis & Ramsden, 2011). Specifically, justice should be applied in cases where there are numerous emergencies and a few ambulances (S. Fellows & B. Fellows, 2012). Ethical issues that concern preference will always arise since families of the patients would want their relative to be attended first. In some situations, the paramedics may avail resources to their friends and relatives, who may not be in as critical condition as other patients, hence raising ethical concerns (Erbay, 2014).
Beneficence and nonmaleficence principles work hand in hand in ensuring that patients receive the best medical attention that will benefit them, as well as ensure that no harm is done to them. The paramedics in the prehospital practice may be a confused in regard to these two double effect principles (Viens & Selgelid, 2013). Thus, there is a need to address them together.Want an expert to write a paper for you Talk to an operator now
Beneficence is a basic principle that necessitates physicians and paramedics to maximize the patient’s benefits and reduce any harm from which the patient may suffer (Viens & Selgelid, 2013). The beneficence principle necessitates that any procedure should be provided by paramedics with the intention of doing good. For this reason, health care specialists should cultivate and preserve proficiencies and knowledge that will continually advance training, take into consideration the needs of all patients, and generally fight for the overall net benefit of the patients (Clarke, Graham, & Cowland, 2011).
Nonmaleficence can be explained by the commonly known locution, “First, do no harm.” Many people have considered that this catchphrase means that it is more crucial not to harm the patient than to do the patient good. Some health care specialists may administer treatment that they believe will do good to the patient without prior testing whether this treatment will not do any harm (Viens & Selgelid, 2013). Nonmaleficence stand for not causing undue harm to the patient, such as physical harm as a result of the intravenous cannulation, and failing to consider possible foreseeable outcomes of a certain course of action (Eburn, 2013). In some cases, patients and paramedics may not see the patient's best interests from the same perspective, which may result in the ethical conflict between beneficence, nonmaleficence, and respect for autonomy. As such, the ethical concern may arise when the doctors have to do what is best for the patient (Mistovich, Karren, Werman, & Hafen, 2008).
Legal Aspects Influencing Healthcare Professionals’ Prehospital Practice
The paramedic field, just like any other field, is also required to follow legal rules and regulations of their respective nation to avoid having legal problems. Paramedics are prone to legal issues that can fall under criminal or civil law (Gallagher, 2012). Paramedics operate in situations that may easily lead them to professional liability; thus, there is a need for them to understand properly ethics and laws regarding the medical industry (Townsend & Luck, 2014). Whenever paramedics fail to perform their jobs as expected by the medical setting, the legal setting steps in and the jurisdiction in which they operate may expose them to civil and criminal liabilities. Paramedics are subject to numerous legal dominions such as state law, departmental procedure, state guidelines, and the local medical etiquette (Townsend & Luck, 2014). Paramedic legal issues include negligence in treating and practice, breach of confidentiality that may cause harm to the patient, and duty of care, among others.
Duty of Care
The duty of care refers to the responsibility of the paramedic to provide the best reasonable care to the patient (Morrison & Furlong, 2014). It encompasses supporting the patients in suffering management, preventing suffering, and so on. Paramedics should always ensure that they care for the patients well enough to avoid any complaints from the patients that may lead to lawsuits (Eburn, 2013). Under the duty of care, paramedics are supposed to report issues such as suspected abuse, domestic violence, animal bites, and childbirth outside medical facilities. Otherwise, the failure to report may result in criminal or civil liability. It is the paramedic's duty to ensure that the patient is well taken care of, and any legal matters surrounding the patient's illness are disclosed to the authorities for proper investigation.
Furthermore, the prehospital emergency caregiver is required to safeguard all the patient information and ensure that unauthorized persons do not have access to it (Mistovich et al., 2008). If by any chance the paramedic discloses the patient’s private information to someone and this person uses the information against the patient, the paramedic will be sued. The paramedic can be charged with the breach of the duty of care by breaching the patient’s confidentiality. In this case, the paramedic will have to compensate the patient accordingly (Mistovich et al., 2008).
Negligence is another legal aspect in the paramedic field. Medical negligence happens when a health care specialist breaches the duty of care (Viens & Selgelid, 2013). Negligence may occur in four steps, the duty of care (where the paramedic owes the patient the duty of care), breach of duty (where the paramedic breached the duty of care), proximate cause (where the paramedic's breach of duty caused an injury of the patient), and the result of the injury (Sommerville, 2013). Where the injury is suffered, the patient seeks a legal representation and the proceedings begin. The patient must prove in court how the paramedic acted negligently; maybe the physician misdiagnosed the patient, administered the wrong medication, or the improperly administered treatment (Townsend & Luck, 2014). For effective evidence, the patient should provide the following documentation in court: medical receipts, doctor’s notes, test results, pictures of the injuries suffered, letters received from the infirmary, and the information related the patient’s diagnosis. The victims can sue the paramedic for negligence, and the paramedic will be held liable if the patients can prove the paramedic's negligence and the loss they have suffered as a result of this negligence (Morrison & Furlong, 2014). If paramedics are found guilty, they will compensate the patient and vice versa.
The paramedics are highly qualified caregivers who mostly provide emergency services. Paramedics have to ensure that they act ethically and always follow the rules and regulations governing the medical field. Unethical and illegal practices in the medical field have huge negative effects on both healthcare specialists and healthcare providers. Prehospital emergency caregivers face ethical and legal issues in their day-to-day work. Some of the ethical issues include justice, beneficence, respect for autonomy, and nonmaleficence. On the other hand, legal issues include negligence and duty of care.