Legal and Ethical Issues in Health Care
Damarie Nix, J.D., M.S.
November 9, 2014
Health Care Deliver Addressing Cultural Diversity
Culture diversity is defined as the diverse existence of a variety of cultural or ethnic groups within our society. This includes for example, diverse ways of living; diverse values, diverse beliefs, diverse languages, diverse ways of communication styles, diverse thinking patterns, diverse standards and other defining attributes. There is controversy in the health care industry on whether a parent of a child has the right to refuse medical treatment based on their religious beliefs, and cultural practices. Controversy also exists do to the threat of the welfare of children because of cultural beliefs. This essay will focus on addressing the various diverse cultural beliefs in health care, the support of client’s right to care and the right to refuse medical care based on their cultural beliefs, as well as, the threat to the welfare of children from culturally diverse groups.
The world is full of diversity and so is the care in which we provide health care. In order to provide quality health care to diverse cultures; healthcare providers should examine client needs based on ethnicity, culture, and religion (Allen, 2013). For example, some members associated with Native American, Hispanic, Asian, Romani/Gypsy, and Amish ethnic groups have unique healthcare needs (Allen, 2013). Different culture groups are wide spread in the United States, for example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (Allen, 2013). Different religions also exist in the world such as Jehovah’s Witness, Christian Scientists, Mormons, Scientology, Judaism, and Islam and healthcare providers must consider their needs and views in order to provide quality care (Allen, 2013).
The beliefs in health care vary amongst these culturally diverse groups. Health care providers need to be culturally sensitive when asking or speaking about health problems. “The culturally bound beliefs, values, and preferences a person holds influence how a person interprets healthcare messages” (Singleton, 2009).
Knowing about a client’s language and culture is important for knowing how health literate a person is in any given situation (Singleton, 2009). Acquiring cultural competence starts with awareness. For example, to help bridge the gaps due to language barriers; work with interpreters and minimize jargon such as EKG; say a machine to look at your heart instead. “Low health literacy, cultural barriers, and limited English proficiency have been coined the “triple threat” to effective health communication by The Joint Commission” (Singleton, 2009).
Awareness of a person’s religion is also important because some religions have unique healthcare considerations. For example, most Jehovah’s Witnesses do not receive blood transfusions. However, there are alternatives to receiving blood transfusions such as auto-transfusion, cell-saver, volume expanders, blood substitutes, and drug erythropoietin that a Jehovah Witness may accept for treatment (Allen, 2013). Healthcare providers should offer alternatives and accept their adult client rights regarding care or refusal of medical care based on their client’s cultural beliefs.
The controversy over whether a parent has the right to refuse medical care based on religious beliefs, cultural practices, and the threats it has on the welfare of the children is an ongoing concern. “Parents have a broad but not unlimited right to make decisions on behalf of their children as they see fit” (Cummings, 2011). According to Prince v. Massachusetts (1944), parents are free to become martyrs themselves regarding their beliefs for not accepting life saving treatments, but they are not free to make martyrs of their children who are under the age to make choices for themselves (Cummings, 2011). In other words, parent authority is