Human rights are rights that are believed to belong to each person, and are usually laid down in international treaties. A right is a claim which persons have to be treated in a fair, equal, morally and legally acceptable manner in order to have a decent lifestyle.
The Health Professional Council of South Africa (2008) states that one of the core ethical values and standards that a health practitioner is required to have is justice. Justice is defined as treating all individuals and groups in a fair, impartial and just manner. The HPCSA (2008) also states that health care practitioners should be aware of the rights and laws concerning unfair discrimination in the management of patients based on the patients race, gender, lifestyle to name but a few. Furthermore health care practitioners should give priority to investigating and treating patients solely based on the patient’s clinical need (Health Professional Council of South Africa, 2008).
According to Jurgens, Cstete, Amon, Baral, & Beyrer (2010) it is the responsibility of the healthcare professional to treat each patient equally. Healthcare practitioners should have the intention of treating each patient equally and to the best of their ability at all times. I believe that the only time you are not allowed to treat a patient equally is when they inflict harm upon you.
During one of my clinical rotations I was assigned a patient, he was one of the most wonderful patients that I have ever worked with and every day I would look forward to seeing him. One day I arrived at his bedside, as usual read the doctors notes, and for the first time I noticed something peculiar in his folder. It stated that this particular patient was on medical parole, I could not believe this, however, I continued treating him as I did prior to this new information. At the end of the day I gave feedback to my clinicians as always, I enquired about the new piece of information I learnt on this specific patient and they confirmed it. I then learnt that not only was he a criminal but also a substance abuser. They instructed me to not treat this specific patient as I treat all my other patients. I did not respond to what they said. I went home that day contemplating my treatment of this patient, I will never be able treat him as I believe your past does not define who you are, and it also does not define whether or not you are entitled to good medical services.
Every person makes their own choices in life, and there is nothing you as the healthcare professional can do about the life choices that the patient made in the past or will make in the future. Treating a patient differently due to his past is not only violating the human right of being treated equally but also denying them good medical services.
Health Professional Council of South Africa. (2008). Booklet 1-Guidelines for Good Practice: General Ethical Guidelines for The Health Care Professions. Pretoria.
Jurgens, R., Csete, J., Amon, J. J., Baral, S., & Beyrer, C. (2010). People who use drugs, HIV and human rights. The Lancet, 376(9739), 475-485.
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