THE PRINCIPLE OF NONMALEFICENCE IN MEDICAL ETHICS
There are some reasons to treat the principle of beneficence and the principle of nonmaleficence as separates. One of these reasons is, that they may sometimes stay in opposition. Then the question arises: to which of the two priority should be given. To resolve this in the area of medical ethics, a definition of the principle of nonmaleficence, considering its meaning and importance, seems to be necessary.
The importance of this principle appears to consist in assuring us, that medicine is a moral enterprise and that physicians would no misuse their knowledge or skills. On the other hand, in doctor’s day-to-day practice it is hard to find any justification for the literal understanding of the precept primum non nocere.
To identify the significance of the principle of nonmaleficence in medical ethics more precisely, it is necessary to ask about the good of the patients – about what makes to their benefit and what to their harm. It is possible however, that we might be unable to formulate any neutral definition of these concepts. If that be the case, a potential conflict between the two principles could be solved only through referring to other principles and values.