Dental Practitioner Case Summary

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The case to be analysed in the following report involves a woman who presents to see a dental practitioner in a clinic of which she has been a patient for the last 5 years. Upon reviewing the medical history, the practitioner is told that the patient has recently learned she is HIV positive and appears to be almost blasé and dismissive about her recent diagnosis. She remarks, ‘I guess I was wild in my younger days’. She is 35 years old. Changes are noted in her medical history including the current medications. She is also told of the oral manifestations of HIV, given related Oral Hygiene Instructions and advised on the best way to care for her mouth. A few months later, the practitioner’s brother is accompanied by the woman you are currently…show more content…
As practitioner, we have been provided with information that not only places our patient at high risk of developing serious illness but also poses a threat to the wider community. The controversial nature of the situation at hand becomes more complex as now a family member is involved, i.e. the practitioner’s brother, and the potential for bias and preference becomes a key aspect to the resolution of the problem. The ethical considerations will be examined using the principle approach, developed by Beauchamp and Childress in 1979, in which they identified four tools to help unearth the ethical affairs of any given situation. These include the right to respect an individual’s right to autonomy and integrity, to provide the best possible care, to do no harm and to pay particular attention to the equal distribution of resources. These are simplified to the Principles of Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-maleficence and…show more content…
If the patient in the above scenario were to choose not to inform her partner of her illness and the practioner was to respect that decision, the protection of the public’s health would be compromised by the protection of the confidentiality and in essence, this would be considered a maleficent act (Boyd, 1992). The conflict we are faced with is that the clinician’s duty to confidentiality directly concerns her patient whereas responsibility to beneficence and non-maleficence concerns a non-patient. And thus the question remains: Does the clinician’s obligations to the non-patient, override her obligations to her own patient? In their text, Bioethics and Clinical Ethics for Health Care Professionals, Mitchel et al. affirm that ‘When the harm to the non-patients is of the lethal type, any duty to the specifics of the doctor-patient relationship is waived’ (Mitchell, Kerridge and Lovat,

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