Autonomy (aw-TON-uh-mee) Self-determination.
Beneficence Of benefit to the patient.
Code of ethics Voluntary standards of behavior established by a profession.
Confidentiality Never revealing any personal information about the patient.
Justice Fair treatment of the patient.
Nonmaleficence Of no harm to the patient.
Dental assistants are oral healthcare professionals. As members of a profession, they must practice in accordance with both ethical and legal standards that the public expects from healthcare providers. The connection between law and ethics is very close. Chapter 5 discusses the legal aspects of dental practice.
Ethics refers to moral conduct (right and wrong behavior, “good” and “evil”). Ethics includes values, high standards of conduct, and personal obligations reflected in our interactions with other professionals and patients. Ethics involves very few absolutes and many gray areas. Ethical issues are subject to individual interpretation regarding the right or wrong of particular situations. Dental healthcare professionals should practice ethical behavior as they provide dental care to their patients.
As a general rule, ethical standards are always of a higher order than minimal legal standards established by law. A behavior can be unethical and still be legal, but it cannot be illegal and still be ethical. The study of ethics seeks to answer two basic questions:
Ethics refers to what you should do, not what you must do. The law deals with what you must do (see Chapter 5).
Sources for Ethics
Ethical decisions are present in every part of our lives. Ethics is involved in the way we treat other humans, animals, and the environment. You have been learning personal ethics throughout your life in a variety of ways from the following sources:
Basic Principles of Ethics
Actions and decisions of healthcare providers are guided by ethical principles.
The following six basic principles of ethics have been developed over time. These principles guide healthcare providers by helping to identify, clarify, and justify moral (ethical) choices (Table 4-1).