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J Korean Soc Emerg Med > Volume 20(6); 2009 > Article
Journal of The Korean Society of Emergency Medicine 2009;20(6): 593-603.
Law and Ethics in Emergency Medicine
Seok Bae Lee, Hyun A Bae, Joong Sik Jeong, Mi Ran Kim, Jee Hee Kim
1College of Law, Dankook University, Korea.
2School of Law, Ewha Womans University, Korea. sincerebae@ewha.ac.kr
3Department of Emergency Medicine, Seoul Metropolitan Goverment Seoul National University Boramae Medical Center, Korea.
4Department of Emergency Medicine, College of Medicine, Inje University, Korea.
5Department of Emergency Medical Technology, Kangwon National University, Korea.
Ethical problems in an emergency department (ED) are much more common than is usually recognized. But these difficult ethical dilemmas have not been dealt with by general medical ethicists. Most medical ethics guidelines tend to concentrate on chronic or at least relatively stable situations rather than on the acute, episodic cases that are typical in the ED. most ethical problems such as abortion, euthanasia, and professionalism can be solved after reflection and deliberation, and after a process of communication that reveals the values and interests of the patient or the patient's family. In contrast, when health care professionals in the ED recognize ethical problems, they often don't have enough time for an ethical consultation such as a Hospital Ethics Committee. Ethical principles such as autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice need to be applied to the unique setting of emergency medicine. Hence, it is necessary to develop ethics guidelines in emergency medicine and ethics education for health care professionals in emergency departments. At first, we collected cases involving ethical problems and reviewed the ethical and legal aspects of those cases. In this article, we summarize the ethical issues in emergency medicine, deal with actions in emergency medical services, and also consider the relationships between ethical issues and act on emergency medical services. We want to present the important factors that should be considered in ethical decision making within an emergency medicine department including patient decision making capacity, legal custody, and ethical principles.
Key words: Medical ethics, Emergency medicine, Law
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