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Nonmaleficence in Professional Life. Thomas Donlin-Smith, Professor of Religious Studies. Nonmaleficence in Professional Life. “First, do no harm”. What counts as harm?. Example: paternalism Motivated by benevolence yet experienced as harm.

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nonmaleficence in professional life
Nonmaleficencein Professional Life

Thomas Donlin-Smith, Professor of Religious Studies

what counts as harm
What counts as harm?
  • Example: paternalism
  • Motivated by benevolence yet experienced as harm.
  • Best safeguard against paternalism – client’s voluntary, informed, competent consent
    • Voluntariness. Avoiding “controlling influences.”
    • Information. Levels & comprehension issues.
    • Competence. Can be difficult to ascertain. Means competence for this decision (not in general).
are some harms justifiable
Are some harms justifiable?
  • E.g., principle of veracity and the possibility of justifiable lies to and for clients.
  • What’s the harm in lies?
    • Much of professional life is based on trust and promises, either explicit or implicit.
      • False promises & broken promises may provide short term gain, but destroy trust.
    • Lies are ways of controlling & manipulating people, getting them to do things they would not otherwise do. Lies infringe on others’ autonomy.
  • The tendency to lie may be strengthened or diminished by the metaphor or model of relationship we are using.
conditions for justifying lies
Conditions for justifying lies
  • Is this lie a last resort? Exhaust all truthful alternatives.
  • Weigh & assess the moral principles & issues at stake. Who is being protected & who is being hurt & why? Does the good outweigh the bad (utility)?
  • “Publicity test” - what would others say? How does this look from the dupe’s perspective?
  • Does the dupe have a right to the truth? Or is there a special latitude with truth permitted in this professional relationship?
  • Slippery slope concerns.
another type of harm in the professional client relationship privacy and confidentiality violations
Another type of harm in the professional-client relationship: privacy and confidentiality violations
two basic rules
Two basic rules
  • Privacy – obligation to minimize invasions of client’s personal information
    • Client’s right to know what info is gathered & why
  • Confidentiality – obligation to protect client information
    • Client’s right to proper safeguards and to know about these safeguards
privacy confidentiality are important because
Privacy & confidentiality are important because . . .
  • Deontologically:
    • They express basic respect.
    • A promise (at least implied)
  • Consequentially:
    • They maintain trust & encourage the full disclosure pros need in order to do their work
  • Virtue:
    • Don’t be a voyeuristic gossip!
limits on confidentiality rules
Limits on confidentiality rules?
  • May break confidence only when there is a duty to do so. May only when must.
  • Begin by asking for waiver of confidentiality
  • Better to violate confidence for the sake of preventing harms than to do good
  • Better for the sake of preventing harms to third parties than for the client’s own protection
considerations in confidentiality violations
Considerations in confidentiality violations
  • Only as a last resort
  • Minimize the amount
  • Give the client a justification
  • Specific, legally required breeches of confidentiality:
    • Suspected child abuse
    • Bullet wounds
    • Selected communicable diseases
    • Threatened injury to third party
temptations to harm
Temptations to harm
  • What factors lead to professional misconduct, lack of “due care,” in professional practice?
  • How to enforce moral standards to prevent or punish misconduct?
  • See Banks McDowell, “The Excuses That Make Professional Ethics Irrelevant”
mike martin on professional misconduct
Mike Martin on professional misconduct
  • Usually amounts to the triumph of private goods over public goods.
    • Religious ethics as antidote?
  • Two fundamental dangers in modern pro life:
    • conflict of interests of advising about & providing services
    • “hired gun” mentality that erodes personal responsibility