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Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  • Explain characteristics that differentiate an ethical deliberation from other types of decision-making.

  • Interpret and make use of ethics rules, principles, and theories to analyze identified ethical dilemmas.

  • Identify and analyze examples of ethical dilemmas that may arise for health professionals when providing drug information, in various practice settings and for various types of clients and circumstances.

  • Identify micro, meso, and macro levels of ethical decision-making that may occur during the provision of pharmacy practice.

  • Use the described process of ethical analysis in order to propose and justify a specific decision or course of action in an ethical dilemma case.

  • Describe resources and structures that can prepare, guide, and support clinicians faced with ethical dilemmas during the course of providing drug information.


Key Concepts

  • image Ethical deliberations may be differentiated by three characteristics: they are ultimate (fundamental); the issue is universal; and the welfare of all affected parties is considered.

  • image Ethical judgments may occur at micro, meso, or macro levels of health care decision-making.

  • image Professional ethics is different from the law.

  • image The primary focus will be on the health care professional’s identification, interpretation, specification, and balancing of pertinent ethical rules and principles.

  • image The application of a proposed process of ethical analysis is demonstrated for identifying, analyzing, and resolving ethical dilemmas that may arise during the health care professionals’ provision of drug information.

  • image The first process step requires identification and evaluation of pertinent background information to ensure that the facts of the specific case are understood, and to assess whether a true ethical dilemma exists.

  • image Sometimes, the professional will find it necessary and valuable to more consciously deliberate on how various ethical theories suggest that the relevant rules and principles should be prioritized or balanced.

  • image Health care professionals need training, resources, and support to prepare them to effectively address those ethical dilemmas they confront.


What is Ethics and What is Not

The Ethics Course Content Committee of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) described ethics as “the philosophical inquiry of the moral dimensions of human conduct.”1 They mentioned that Aristotle taught ethics as “an eminently practical discipline…” dealing “with concrete judgments in situations in which action must be taken despite uncertainty.”1 These authors indicated that the term “ethical” is often used synonymously with the term “moral” to describe an action or decision as good or right. They further stated that ethics is not the study of moral development, and it is not the law.

Veatch stated that “an ethical, or moral, issue involves judgments between right and wrong human conduct or praiseworthy and blameworthy human character.”2 This author indicated that an image ethical deliberation may be differentiated from other endeavors by three characteristics: (1) it is ultimate or fundamental, there ...

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