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Paper Topic:

The Ethical issue regarding the use of Covert medication for people who are elderly mentally ill

ETHICS IN HEALTH CARE

Introduction

Like every other professional endeavour that particularly affect human lives , the field of healthcare is well guided by fundamental professional , ethical and legal obligations that explain and limit the roles , functions and duties of the healthcare professional . The most fundamental of these , mostly relates to individual autonomy , the right to decision making and self determination Beneficence , to always act in the best interest of the patient , at all times and Non - Maleficence always act to prevent harm to self and others (Treloar et al , 2001 :444

br Welsh and Martin , 2002 :123

In most cases , the treatment of younger people with the competence and capacity to make informed decisions does not usually pose any serious ethical problem except , of course , in the most unusual cases . However the same cannot be said about treatment for the older population , who in most cases , are physically frail and mentally incapable of making informed decision . Considering the fact that the elderly , though constitute just about 18 of the population , receive more than 45 of the drugs prescribed in the UK (Treloar et al , 2001 :444 , treatment for the elderly poses the greatest ethical challenge for healthcare professionals , especially nurses who are always in charge of these patients due to their need for long term care

Furthermore , the prevalence of mental conditions such as dementia among the older population is considerably higher Macdonald (1998 ) reports that 5 of people aged 65 and above in the community and 80 in residential or nursing homes suffer from dementia . Apparently , this makes the prescription and administration of medications to this population more tasking and challenging , as the nurse has to weigh the balance between the right to self determination of the patients , and the duty to act in the 'best interest ' of the patient . In situations where mentally ill elderly patients cannot give a valid consent or refuses to receive medication , the problem is further compounded

However , according to Treloar et al (2000 , mental incapacitation and the inability to give a valid consent should not deprive a patient the benefit of good quality healthcare . In this light , administering medications to mentally ill elderly patients disguised in food , drinks or beverages has become an increasing situation that is always justified by acting in the patients 'best interest . This practice of 'covertly administering ' medications to patients is arguably an issue of current concern in healthcare practices in the UK , considering the facts that one , it touches on legal and ethical issues of patients ' competence autonomy and insight two , it is a healthcare practice that is shrouded in secrecy making it difficult to document or regulate the practice and three , it has taken prominence in adult mental health nursing

In a study carried out by Treloar et al (2000 ) covering 34 residential nursing and inpatient units in southeast England , 71 (24 units ) have had to resort to covert drug administration at one time or the other The author further stated that this appears to be an underestimate...

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