Biomedical ethics applied to nursing and medicine has been concerned primarily with 8 interrelated areas: 1) clinical competence, judgment, and comportment of practitioners; 2) fair allocation of scarce resources; 3) protection of human subjects; 4) ethical assessment of medical technologies; 5) ensuring patient rights including autonomy and informed consent; 6) beneficent practice; 7) nonmaleficence; and 8) social policy related to healthcare. These bold ethical agendas are still being worked out and will continue to be central to the ethics of healthcare.

In the now classic biomedical textbook on a principle-based approach to bioethics, Beauchamp and Childress2 present 4 major ethical principles (autonomy, justice, beneficence, and nonmaleficence) that can be applied to reach decisions in cases of ethical conflict and dilemmas. Patient autonomy and informed consent as overt ethical reforms to paternalism exerted a strong moral influence in medicine...

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