Original Research

Ethical issues in optometric practice

H. L. Sithole
African Vision and Eye Health | South African Optometrist: Vol 69, No 2 | a130 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v69i2.130 | © 2010 H. L. Sithole | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 December 2010 | Published: 11 December 2010

About the author(s)

H. L. Sithole, BOptom MOptom, South Africa

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Ethics as a discipline is the study and analysis of values and standards related to duty, responsibility, and right and wrong behavior. The ethical obligations of optometry toward patients are similar to those of other health professionals. These obligations generally require optometrists to recognize, respect, and protect the rights of their patients. This approach encourages patients to participate actively in their care and allows them to develop arelationship with their optometrist based on trust. The ethical codes which contain guiding principles serve to help practitioners in their decisions and in practicing in accordance with a set of standards that are expected of a health care practitioner. There are four major ethical principles in health care, namely; beneficence, non-maleficence, and respect for autonomy and justice. Because these principles are easily recognized as being among the primary ethical goals of health care, using them as the basis for ethical analysis may help to explain the moral justification for certain professional actions as well as to identify unethical behavior. However, in clinical practice, the specific demands and rationales
of these broad principles may be difficult to apply. This illustrates the paradox that whilst these principles are essential tools for ethical practice, if applied too rigidly, they can be problematic. How-
ever, the goal of ethical decision making in optometry should be to identify one or more courses of action that will honor the profession’s essential values while minimizing conflict with other values and professional standards. Every profession, every practice and every practitioner is governed by not only legal constraints, but also by the ethical concerns of ensuring that the patient is properly
served. Considering our practices from a patient’s perspective can help optometrists understand the multiple responsibilities of clinical practice. (S Afr
Optom 2010 69(2) 93-99)


Ethics in optometry; principles of ethics; standards of clinical practice; health care


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