How do the principles of care affect the autonomy of vulnerable people?

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jraineharrison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The principles of care in a health care setting are designed to protect the rights of all patients, including those members of a vulnerable population. Multiple safeguards, policies, procedures, and laws have been implemented to protect the rights, the privacy, and the safety of patients of all populations.

The idea of patient rights for each individual started as early in 1948 when the World Health Organization declared that each person has rights as part of the "human family". In the United States, a law that is used to protect patient rights and privacy is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This law protects the privacy of protected health information (PHI) that is available to health care providers, insurance companies, companies that handle medical records or information technology companies that store or create medical information. Healthcare providers are limited on information they can provide about the patient to other health care providers without the patient's prior consent. 

Best practices in healthcare as recommended by the Institute of Medicine also outline protections for patients' rights. Some of these principles include effective communication between provider and patient, meeting health literacy needs of the patient, providers developing cultural competency, and understanding the needs of disabled populations. Moreover, patients have a right to know and understand all treatments that are being given and also should grant informed consent prior to treatment.