Privacy Beliefs and the Violent Family: Extending the Ethical Argument for Physician Intervention
Jecker, Nancy S.
JAMA. 1993 Feb 10; 269(6): 776-780.
Privacy beliefs associated with the family impede physicians' response to domestic violence. As a private sphere, the family is regarded as sacred, separate, and hidden from public view. Hence, physicians who look for or uncover violence in the family risk defiling a sacred object and violating norms of noninterference. Privacy beliefs also obfuscate the ethical analysis of physicians' duties to intercede on behalf of battered patients. Ethical principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence have been invoked to justify physicians' duties to abused patients; however, the principle of justice has not been invoked. Ethical analysis of physicians' duties in this area must be broadened to include the principle of justice. Justice is at stake because establishing conditions favorable to self-respect is a requirement of justice, and the response physicians make to battered patients carries important ramifications for supporting patients' self-respect and dignity. If justice forms part of the ethical foundation for physician intervention in domestic violence, mandatory steps that do not transgress the confidentiality of the physician-patient relationship or infringe the patient's autonomy should be taken, such as requiring domestic violence training in medical education and following treatment plans and protocols to identify abuse and provide assistance to battered patients.
Attitudes; Autonomy; Beneficence; Communication; Confidentiality; Diagnosis; Domestic Violence; Education; Ethical Analysis; Ethics; Family Members; Family Relationship; Females; Forms; Guidelines; Health; Historical Aspects; Justice; Legal Obligations; Males; Mandatory Programs; Marital Relationship; Medical Education; Medical Ethics; Moral Obligations; Nonmaleficence; Obligations to Society; Organizational Policies; Organizations; Patient Care; Patients; Physician Patient Relationship; Physician's Role; Physicians; Policy Analysis; Privacy; Risk; Violence; Women's Health;
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