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Ethics and Healthcare Worker Exposure Considerations

Compass with the dial pointed to the word ethics.

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Ethics is a generic term that covers several different ways of examining, understanding, and applying moral principles that guide behavior and actions to address specific problems or dilemmas.  Ethical principles provide guidance for how people reason, problem-solve, and respond. Codes of ethics from professional societies have existed, in some cases, for over 200 years such as that of the American Medical Association (1794) and nearly 100 years for the American Nurses Association (1926). Once established, healthcare–related societies typically develop a code of ethics or code of conduct for providers to use to guide practice and ethical decision-making (Curtain 2014; Rogers & Schill 2021; Rogers, 2022).

It is important to note that ethical principles and codes of ethics are not legal requirements and are not public policy documents. Basic ethical principles provide guidance for healthcare workers to protect the rights of individuals and support an ethical culture for safety, health, and well-being for all.

There are four basic principles (Beauchamp & Childress 2013): autonomy (self-determination in decision-making); nonmaleficence (do no harm); beneficence (do good); and justice (be fair).