American Journal of Bioethics.

The Moral Domain of the Medical Record: The Routine Ethics Evaluation

The structure, content, and orientation of the contemporary medical record inadequately reflect the appropriate influence of patients’ rights and bioethics on health care. Most tellingly, the medical chart reveals a remarkable absence of attention to medical ethics, except in the case of crisis management. But medical ethics informs both crisis decision-making and virtually all clinical interventions. Indeed, clinical care embodies a complex array of choices influenced by individual and cultural values, themselves reflecting religious beliefs, personal histories, psychologies, and social mores. But the typical medical chart, which records clinical descriptions, analyses, and rationales for treatment, rarely identifies or accounts for this value-laden dimension of care and thus both over-simplifies and distorts the depiction of a patient’s illness and its treatment. To better reflect the complex moral domain of clinical care, and assist in organizing its complex structure, a systematic procedure is proposed here to evaluate the ethical status of every patient: As a routine part of the clinical evaluation, in a designated Ethical Concerns section of the medical record, an �ethics work-uP? is designed to serve as a moral �diagnostic� analogous to its scientific counterpart. Adapted to the needs of individual patients, such evaluations should identify ethical problems, coordinate related data, resources, and opinion, and define the rationale for choices made and actions pursued. In establishing improved integration of the �epistemologies� of care and the �ethics� of care, the goals of a more humane, patient-centered medicine may be better met.

View Full Text

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

Volume 6, Issue 4
July 2006