Medical ethics and patient safety
Refl ecting on medical ethics and patient safety appears, at fi rst glance, to be an easy task. The issue appears to be straightforward because it is surely the paramount concern of all health professionals to ensure the absolute safety of the patients in their custody. A careful second look reveals, of course, that the subject of patient safety is permeated with the same tensions that infl uence all areas of healthcare provision: misconceptions, confl icting interests, systemic failures and complex balancing exercises. For brevity, this discussion is limited to putting questions of patient safety, adverse incidents and different levels of actors in the context of the four principles of biomedical ethics proposed by Beauchamp and Childress: 1 respect for autonomy, nonmalefi cence, benefi cence and justice. As these principles have been discussed in detail elsewhere, I do not intend to revisit these principles fully in this chapter. This chapter will merely identify some of the issues arising in the debate on medical ethics and patient safety and give impetus for further discussion.