Common Ethical Issues

Ethical issuesIssues of privacy, informed consent, access to hospitalized or residential care patients, access to medical records or inclusion in conferences with healthcare staff, competency and decision making about care, especially end-of-life care may lead to complex, ethical conflicts or concerns when treating family caregivers. This section offers information about legal and ethical issues and some approaches to supporting the caregiver dealing with such issues.

HIPAA
  • The Health Information Portability Authorization Act (HIPAA) defines the standards for protecting personal health information (PHI).
  • In their efforts to protect privacy, healthcare providers are careful about how family members can access information. They may consequently be cautious or even close-mouthed if family members ask about a loved one’s health conditions.
  • There are two common strategies that help family members communicate with their loved one’s healthcare providers within the parameters of HIPAA:
    - Ask the care recipient to provide written consent to share information with particular providers.
    - Ask family members to mail or fax written statements of their psychological or medical concerns about the care-recipient to the provider. HIPAA may set limits on the information that the provider can share but doesn’t preclude the provider from receiving information from others, regardless of whether the client has granted consent or not.
Legal Recognition Barriers
Diminished Capacity and Proxy Consent