Moral and ethical qualities of a nurse have always been equally important in both professional and practical activities. One of the key issues in nursing is confidentiality. On the one hand, confidentiality can be regarded as the most complex question in medical ethics. On the other hand, the way a medical worker handles confidentiality issues is an indicator of the level of both professional and human ethical culture of this person. Modern technology used for handling patients reveals difficulties for nurses when it comes to confidentiality. Their task is to manage to stay true to this crucial medical principle despite the new developments in the hospital procedures.
It is important to understand that a patient often shares his or her own health statement, fears, or bad expectations with a nurse because of the shame associated with sharing them with the relatives. In these cases, a nurse becomes the closest person to patient. The nurses’ codes of ethics provision 3.1 underlines that confidentiality is an obligatory requirement to provide reliable and trusting relationship between a nurse and patients (Kentucky Board of Nursing, 2013). However, computerized medical care is likely to put confidentiality at risk causing ethical dilemma.
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Modern technologies, such as computers and medical electronic examination machinery, make the concept of medical confidentiality impossible. At the very least, the hospital administrative staff has legal access to the disease stories. However, American Nurses Association being the highest expert institution clearly defined privacy and confidentiality as an essential aspect of nurses’ activities (ANA Center for Ethics and Human Rights, 2015). Still, there are viewpoints indirectly opposite to ANA’s statement. The example of such viewpoints would be an electronic medical records program pushed by the government which is claimed to break confidentiality as it is. There has been plenty of criticism towards the electronic treatment history, the significant part of which was presented by Dr. Scot M. Silverstein stating that “the technology of electronic treatment record has no good scientific basis” and may come as an “ethical question” (Freudenheim, 2012).
Thus, the confidentiality issue is obvious. This important ethics aspect may suffer, though indirectly, with the development of modern information tools. By far, the emphasis in this case is to be put on the possible outcomes to avoid the negative ones. However, ongoing support of patient’s privacy and confidentiality as one of fundamental requirements for the nurse’s activity seems to make the latter impossible.
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