Ethics and the Law

Duthie, Katherine; Jiwani, Bashir; Steele, Duncan
December 2017
HEC Forum;Dec2017, Vol. 29 Issue 4, p347
Academic Journal
journal article
Health care providers' interpretation of law can have intended and unintended effects on health care delivery in Canada. At times, health care providers encounter situations where they perceive the law to conflict with their sense of what is most ethically justified. In many cases, these health care providers feel especially torn because they assume that the legal requirements must dictate the decision, and cannot be explored or questioned. We challenge this assumption: the law is not as cut-and-dried as some assume; therefore, its significance to health care decisions should be carefully considered. Within a systematic ethics process, legal considerations can be a source of values and information and can create opportunities for further dialogue. This approach is justified because it appropriately reflects the relationship of the law to ethics. This way of thinking about the law and ethics also avoids potentially harmful consequences of legalistic approaches to decision-making, such as breakdowns in communication, adversarial relationships, and a reduction of ethically complex decisions to simple rule following.


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