Medical School Interviews: Medical Ethics Beneficence

Advice & Insight From Interview Specialists

Having an understanding of beneficence one of the 4 pillars of medical ethics, will allow you to structure your answers to medical ethics questions confidently.

Definition of Beneficence

Beneficence is defined as the duty of a doctor to do good and act in the patient’s best interest. By applying the principle of beneficence doctors can ensure that the patients’ interests are at the heart of their practice. Acting with beneficence enables the best possible clinical outcomes optimising patient safety and care.

Although there are several guidelines and regulations that doctors must follow medics have a professional intuition which they must follow based upon the best interest of a patient.

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How doctors apply Beneficence

In order to act in the patient’s best interest, doctors must understand and consider the patients perspectives showing an appreciation of the views and priorities of others.  What a doctor deems to be best for a patient may differ from what the patient is thinking Doctors must apply empathy and effective communication skills to ensure they have an awareness of a patient’s expectations, wants and needs

The Challenges of Beneficence and defining doing good

The biggest challenge for applying beneficence is defining what is meant by doing good. When applying the principle of beneficence, you may consider medical good – doctors should use their medical knowledge to provide safe care. There are several actions doctors can take to provide a good standard of practice and care.

It is difficult to always discern what is in the best interest of a patient. Some lifesaving treatments may avoid death – as a doctor it is a natural instinct to aim to save our patients and do all in our power to prevent death. However, doctors are advised to consider whether it is in the best interest of the patient to prologue life or whether treatment is leading to the continuation of suffering. In some circumstances the patient’s quality of life may be extremely poor and treatments may be burdensome. When we are considering what is in the best interest of their patient’s doctors assess the situation from afar.  Not only do they complete an assessment considering the patient’s medical interests but take into consideration the patients and relatives’ preferences and perspectives. If patients have previously stated wishes regarding their medical care, then it is necessary to take these into account when assessing the patients best interest. 

Doing what is in the best interest of a patient involves analysing the risks and benefits of an action.

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Beneficence in action

Scenario 1: A 14-year-old girl asks her GP for contraception in confidence of her parents.

As a doctor we must access the best interest and benefits of providing contraceptives to our patient as she is under the age of 16. Fulfilling the patient’s confidentiality wishes may allow beneficence to be practiced if the doctor cannot persuade the individual to inform their parents. The doctormust believe that the individual is likely to continue having, or begin sexual intercourse with or without treatment.

Scenario 2: A friends decision making/ circumstances mean that they have found themselves in a situation where they are struggling to engage with their medical degree. What will you do?

It is in the best interest of your friend that you support them, exhibiting empathy and actively listening to their concerns. Listen to your friends’ ideas for how to find a solution to the problem and provide them with the help and support they need to implement their choice. Stressful situations and mental health conditions may mean that an individual’s perceptions on the benefits of their actions is clouded. Acting in your friends best interest you should ensure they approach the medical school about their issues and seek appropriate support and advise. If your friend fails to do this issue may worsen leading to a fitness to practice concern. Where you have low level concerns about your peers and friends you must act with integrity and ensure that if necessary you raise concerns about your peers with the medical school.

Medical School Interviews: Medical Ethics Beneficence

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