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Children's Medical Services - Special services for children with special needs
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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 6, Lesson 1

Medical Ethics / Confidentiality

Medical ethics is a system for making decisions used by medical practitioners. Ethics include weighing factors logically and considering morals and values. Underlying medical ethics is the premise that the physician or practitioner has a duty to 'first, do no harm', and show respect for persons. Principles in medical ethics include:

  • a belief that people are autonomous and can practice self-determination
  • a responsibility to tell the truth
  • a duty to keep one's word
  • a sense of justice and fairness
  • consideration of issues of privacy and confidentiality
  • strategies for dealing with conflict and disagreements

baby with sheet over his headWhen medical ethics is applied to children, the physician or practitioner asks questions such as who needs to make the decisions for the child. Often the decision maker is the parent, but sometimes it is a care provider or a surrogate assigned by the state if the child is in special foster care.

It is important for the ITDS to recognize the medical home of the child and to work in concert with this primary provider of health care. The ITDS should not give advice to the family that will confuse or jeopardize care. Whenever possible the primary medical provider should be included as an active participant and consultant on the IFSP team.

All persons who work in health related fields are responsible for maintaining confidentiality. The privacy laws that pertain to the protection of educational and health records bind the ITDS. This includes the Family Right to Privacy Act (FERPA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Examples of privacy protections include that all records of the ITDS should be maintained in a locked file. No personally identifiable information for the child and family should be transmitted by electronic means. Additionally, the ITDS should not discuss a child or family without the express written permission of the family and only for specific purposes that have been identified and agreed upon by the family. This requirement is important when planning consultation visits and staffing sessions.


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