Ethical and Legal Implications of Prescribing Drugs
Medical practitioners with prescription authority are accountable for their patient’s health. Patients trust them with their lives, believing that they have their best interest at heart. Physicians, in turn, have ethical and legal obligations to “do no harm.” As such, it is vital that, as an advanced professional with prescriptive authority, you are aware of both legal and ethical responsibilities associated with the prescription of drugs.
Health care professionals will prescribe and dispense dozens of medications to different patients in a single day. Ethical obligations in prescribing drugs begin by ensuring that you are well informed on the action mechanisms of a plethora of drugs, particularly new medications in the market. Observe all important aspects like safety, the effectiveness, and interactions of different medications before making any prescription decision.
Before prescribing any drugs, it is crucial to consider both ethical and legal implications
Disclosing personal prescription errors
Prescription errors are quite common during treatment. But the main concern faced by most physicians is whether to disclose or not to disclose an error. It is critical to keep in mind that, however insignificant the error appears to be, the principle of autonomy requires you to be open by disclosing all medication mistakes.
Disclosing helps you build trust with your patients because they can see you have their best interests in mind. It also allows the system to make changes focused on creating an error-free system. On the other hand, failure to disclose the mistake has dire legal implications, especially in cases where the error results in harm or death of the patient. Therefore, ethically and legally, all personal prescription errors should be brought to the attention of the patient and the system altogether.
Self-medicating and Prescribing drugs for family and close friends
Most prominent medical societies, such as the American Medical Association (AMA), American College of Physicians (ACP), and the British Medical Association, all discourage self-medicating and prescribing for family and close friends by physicians. They argue that the emotional nature of the relationships may compromise the objectivity of the physician, the physician may feel uncomfortable delving into sensitive personal issues or refrain from conducting intimate examinations that might be vital to the prescription decision.
The dangers of self-medicating and prescribing drugs for family and friends include the risk of addiction, particularly with narcotic medications, misuse, and misdiagnosis, which may have serious health impacts. It is only considered ethically and legally appropriate to prescribe for family and friends in emergency and exceptional circumstances. Otherwise, as a physician, you should try by all means possible to avoid self-medicating or prescribing for family and friends.
Analyzing the ethical and legal implications of a prescription decision beforehand makes it easier for you to make the right choice. Carefully weigh your options based on the state and federal laws. Most importantly, refrain from uncomfortable and obviously risky situations.