Experiences of pre-hospital emergency medical personnel in ethical decision-making: A qualitative study

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Abstract

Background: Emergency care providers regularly deal with ethical dilemmas that must be addressed. In comparison with in-hospital nurses, emergency medical service (EMS) personnel are faced with more problems such as distance to resources including personnel, medico-technical aids, and information; the unpredictable atmosphere at the scene; arriving at the crime scene and providing emergency care for accident victims and patients at home. As a result of stressfulness, unpredictability, and often the life threatening nature of tasks that ambulance professionals have to deal with every day, ethical decision-making (EDM) has become an inevitable challenge. Methods: The content analysis approach was used to conduct the present qualitative study in Iran. The participants consisted of 14 EMS personnel selected through purposive sampling, which continued until the data became saturated. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and analyzed concurrently with their collection through the constant comparison method. Results: The process of data analysis resulted in the emergence of 3 main categories "respecting client's values", "performing tasks within the professional manner", "personal characteristic", and the emergence of eight (8) sub-categories signifying participants' experiences with regard to EDM. Conclusion: According to the results, when EMS personnel are faced with ethical dilemmas, they consider the client's values and professional dignity, and perform the assigned tasks within the framework of the regulation. The findings also suggest that pre-hospital care providers assess legal consequences before making any decision. Further studies should be conducted regarding the experiences of the subordinates and other related parties.

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Torabi, M., Borhani, F., Abbaszadeh, A., & Atashzadeh-Shoorideh, F. (2018). Experiences of pre-hospital emergency medical personnel in ethical decision-making: A qualitative study. BMC Medical Ethics, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-018-0334-x

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