Beneficence is an ethical principle which encompasses the desire to do good; to show compassion, and taking positive action as a way of helping others (De Roubaix, 2011). The nurse has an obligation of promoting the welfare and health of the patient and not just refraining from causing harm. The best interests of the patient are always a priority when it comes to observing beneficence. This is a primary goal for not only nurses but also other healthcare providers. Beneficence is categorized into two namely ideal and obligatory beneficence. Ideal beneficence involves attempts to benefit others in every way possible or showing of extreme acts of generosity (De Roubaix, 2011). Obligatory beneficence refers to the medical practitioner’s duty to do good to the patient.
An example of beneficence from clinical experience is when an elderly patient falls at his home and gets a fractured hip. When he was brought to the emergency room, he was provided with analgesics as soon as possible hence exhibiting beneficence. A newly-diagnosed diabetic patient who smoked heavily was encouraged to quit smoking and begin an exercise program.
On the other hand, non-maleficence refers to doing no harm to the patient. This is the core of the nursing ethics and the medical oath (Felix et al., 2014). A nurse should avoid acting with malice or providing ineffective medication towards a patient. Though there are many beneficial therapies, there are those that have serious risks. Non-maleficence involves making decisions concerning medical futility and quality of life, based on a rigorous evaluation of best interests, benefits, and burdens (De Roubaix, 2011). It is up to the nurse to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks. This principle offers great help when balanced against beneficence.
An example of non-maleficence from clinical practice is when the nurse refuses to administer medication after finding out that it had expired. Another example is when a nurse stops admiration of Sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim after realizing that the patient was allergic to sulfa medication. These acts of beneficence keep the patient free from harm.
De Roubaix, J. A. M. (2011). Beneficence, non-maleficence, distributive justice and respect for patient autonomy - Reconcilable ends in aesthetic surgery? Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, 64(1), 11–16.
Felix, Z. C., Batista, P. S. de S., Costa, S. F. G. da, Lopes, M. E. L., Oliveira, R. C. de, & Abrão, F. M. da S. (2014). Nursing care in terminality: compliance with principles of bioethics. Revista Gaúcha de Enfermagem, 35(3), 97–102.