HLT-305: Legal and Ethical Principles in Health Care

This HLT-305: Legal and Ethical Principles in Health Care course introduces students to major ethical theories, principles, and decision-making models that serve as the foundation for resolving ethical dilemmas in the field of health care. Guidelines for legal and ethical practice are also examined in the context of accrediting and certifying agencies’ regulatory requirements.

Medical best practice is based on legal and ethical principles that guide physicians’ and health care providers’ decisions when caring for patients or conducting research. The most important ethical principles the autonomy of medicine, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice are all examples of virtues. A patient’s mental capacity and competence must be demonstrated before they can be considered capable of making decisions about their health care; if these are lacking, the patient may have a surrogate make decisions for them. Minors who have not been emancipated are unable to make medical decisions for themselves and must rely on a parent or caretaker to do so on their behalf.

Driving restrictions, elder abuse, and torture are all social factors that should be considered. Prior to treatment or medical intervention, patients must be informed about all of their treatment options, including potential risks and benefits. When an external factor (such as payment from a pharmaceutical company) influences a physician’s ability to make an objective medical decision, it is called a conflict of interest. Medical research must also adhere to ethical principles, and there is a set of guidelines specifically for research on vulnerable populations (e.g., pregnant women, children, prisoners).



Provide enough information for the patient to make their own decisions about their treatment (i.e., informed consent).
Respect the patient’s decision to accept or refuse care.


Act in the patient’s best interest and advocate for them (fiduciary relationship).
Autonomy may be in conflict.


Avoid injuring or distressing the patient.
May be incompatible with beneficence: the patient’s risks and benefits must be balanced in his or her favor.
Frequently brought up in connection with drugs and surgical procedures.


Treat patients in a fair and equitable manner.
The terms “equity” and “equality” are not interchangeable.

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