Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 January 2022
The aim of this publication is to show the importance of ethics in health and social care. The emphasis in both arenas of care is significant as, up to now, ethical issues have tended to focus on either health or social care separately. This chapter begins by briefly setting out definitions of ethics, followed by providing a policy overview to illustrate the increasing impact of ethics overall that has led to ever more media coverage. Summaries of the chosen topic areas are then set out where three key arenas have been assembled for discussion. The main themes selected are ethics: research and provision in health and social care together with service users’ perspectives; followed by law, management and ethics in health and social care; with the final section on ethics: from the start of life to the end. Each chapter also sets out to identify the contemporary challenges presented for health and social care provision.
Ethics is derived from the Greek ‘ethos’, meaning a person's character, nature or disposition. Ethics, as relating to morals, pertains to the distinction between right and wrong or good and evil in relation to actions, volitions or the character of responsible beings. Ethical theories can cover consequentialism (assessing principles in doing good, removing harm and preventing harm) as well as virtue ethics and deontology (acting according to morally obligatory principles or duties).
Ethical principles are concerned with aspects such as: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice; corporate, research and collaborative governance; truth telling; confidentiality; consent and accountability, the themes of which are discussed and applied across this publication. In particular, Louise Terry provides an overview of ethical principles and contemporary challenges in Chapter Two.
Each chapter addresses selected ethical principles applied to a theme in health and social care. For example, the chapter on interprofessional care (Chapter Seven) considers the issues of beneficence, confidentiality, accountability and collaborative governance in relation to interprofessional, interagency and partnership working. The purpose of this publication is to demonstrate the increasing impact of ethics on a range of themes and arenas in health and social care. The authors’ chapters are summarised at the end of this introduction to provide an overview of the publication as a whole.