Ethical Theories and Principles.html Ethical Theories and Principles

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Ethical Theories and Principles.html

Ethical Theories and Principles

The term “ethics” is derived from Greek and Latin terms for custom or habit, but current usage of the term communicates a manner of action—doing what is right or good over what is wrong or bad. It is important to note here that ethics involves the how and why of what ought to be versus what is. The study of ethics provides us with a framework to make appropriate choices on the basis of some universal guidelines set by community values and laws. There are a number of different ethical theories that help to guide the development of such community values and laws that, in turn, support ethical decision making. In this course, you will explore the following ethical theories in depth:

  • Consequential Ethics: A value-based theory that suggests the ends justify the means—the decision to act in a certain manner must be driven by a desired outcome to maximize good
  • Utilitarian Ethics: A result-based theory that says the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its ability to maximize happiness or pleasure for all
  • Deontological Ethics: A duty-based theory that originated from the work of Kant suggests that doing the right thing is important whether it results in maximum good
  • Nonconsequential Ethics: An intent-based theory that denies that the consequences of behavior are the only criteria to determine moral action; right and wrong stem from the intent of the action

Ethical Theories Review each tab to learn more. Consequential Right and Wrong Rightness and wrongness of actions are determined by the consequences generated. Goodness Good breeds good. Theorists Milton Friedman and Niccolo Machiavelli Utilitarian Right and Wrong Rightness and wrongness of actions are determined by a decrease in pain and increase in pleasure. (Consequential) Goodness Maximize the greatest good; ends justify the means. Theorists Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mills Deontological Right and Wrong Rightness and wrongness of actions are determined by the role of respect and duty to others. (Nonconsequential) Goodness Identify and follow one’s duty, even if it does not maximize good. Theorists W. D. Ross and Martin Buber Nonconsequential Right and Wrong Rightness and wrongness of actions is determined by the intent of the action itself, not the consequences. Goodness Intention-based theory, obligation is critical. Theorists Rene Descartes and Immanuel Kant

Ultimately, while there are a number of theories to help influence ethical conduct, there are some agreed-upon principles in healthcare that drive ethical behavior for healthcare professionals. Following are the principles:

  • Autonomy: Recognizing the right of individuals to make their own decisions without interference from another
  • Beneficence: Recognizing the principle of showing kindness and compassion to others and doing good
  • Nonmaleficence: Recognizing the importance to avoid causing harm and to avoid options that provide no short- or long-term benefits

Developing a working knowledge of ethical theories and principles helps to provide a moral compass. This moral compass will guide the decisions you make throughout your life as individuals and as healthcare administrators, particularly as you align your organization to meet a growing body of governing healthcare laws.

Additional Materials

From your course textbook, Legal and Ethical Issues for Health Professionals, review the following chapter:

  • Introduction to Ethics

From the South University Online Library, review the following articles:

From the Internet, review the following:

  • American College of Healthcare Executives. (n.d.). About ACHE. Retrieved from

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