Where does patient autonomy live, in times of crisis in Portugal?

Ana Filipa Fontes Rita Ribeiro Barbosa Dinis Brito About the authors

Abstract

Coronavirus disease 2019 made us question daily practices, such as the simple handshake. It also raised some ethical and legal issues. Are the ethical principles, that should guide the provision of individualized care, being fulfilled? Will we, as health professionals, be able to provide patients with instruments so that they can fully exercise their autonomy? The guarantee of necessary security solutions, to reduce the risk of contagion in the provision of care, safeguards the principle of non-maleficence. However, the risk of contagion is impossible to completely eliminate, and there is a residual risk associated with the use of physical facilities in healthcare services. But, shouldn’t the decision to take that risk be the subject of the patient’s free and informed will? The incorporation of telemedicine platforms is ideal for managing several challenges posed by COVID-19, such as the decrease in face-to-face health care assistance. Can the patient really decide how he prefers to be consulted, or are we imposing the consultation model? There have been profound changes in healthcare systems. However, one must remember that there are ethical principles of biomedicine, that should always prevail?

Key words
COVID-19; Telemedicine; Remote consultation; Bioethics; Personal autonomy

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