Ethics as a discipline and certainly morals as a force in decision-making is not new. However, the remarkable advances in science and technology that have occurred during the past 30 years have brought to the bedside unforseen dilemmas, forcing health care professionals to take an ethical look at the care they deliver. Powerful diagnostic techniques, sophisticated surgical procedures, effective drugs, and worthwhile therapeutic interventions have enabled health care practitioners to eliminate many diseases and minimize disability. This progress has brought enormous human benefit. Unfortunately, coupled with these dramatic results is a reality that sometimes the quality of life produced is much less than what was desired. Our capacity to prolong life has not coincided with our ability to restore some level of health. Medical interventions have been able to maintain vital functions without always benefiting the underlying disease process. The rapidity with which technology has perpetuated ethical issues within the clinical setting has often lead to hasty and arbitrary decision-making. It is only with a thrust toward preventive ethics that decisions can be thoughtful and beneficial to patients and families. Thus, this article focuses on the implementation of policies that minimize and/or prevent ethical conflicts.

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