Ethical values in emergency medical services: A pilot study

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Abstract

Background:

Ambulance professionals often address conflicts between ethical values. As individuals' values represent basic convictions of what is right or good and motivate behaviour, research is needed to understand their value profiles.

Objectives:

To translate and adapt the Managerial Values Profile to Spanish and Swedish, and measure the presence of utilitarianism, moral rights and/or social justice in ambulance professionals' value profiles in Spain and Sweden.

Methods:

The instrument was translated and culturally adapted. A content validity index was calculated. Pilot tests were carried out with 46 participants.

Ethical considerations:

This study conforms to the ethical principles for research involving human subjects and adheres to national laws and regulations concerning informed consent and confidentiality.

Findings:

Spanish professionals favoured justice and Swedish professionals' rights in their ambulance organizations. Both countries favoured utilitarianism least. Gender differences across countries showed that males favoured rights. Spanish female professionals favoured justice most strongly of all.

Discussion:

Swedes favour rights while Spaniards favour justice. Both contexts scored low on utilitarianism focusing on total population effect, preferring the opposite, individualized approach of the rights and justice perspectives. Organizational investment in a utilitarian perspective might jeopardize ambulance professionals' moral right to make individual assessments based on the needs of the patient at hand. Utilitarianism and a caring ethos appear as stark opposites. However, a caring ethos in its turn might well involve unreasonable demands on the individual carer's professional role. Since both the justice and rights perspectives portrayed in the survey mainly concern relationship to the organization and peers within the organization, this relationship might at worst be given priority over the equal treatment and moral rights of the patient.

Conclusion:

A balanced view on ethical perspectives is needed to make professionals observant and ready to act optimally - especially if these perspectives are used in patient care. Research is needed to clarify how justice and rights are prioritized by ambulance services and whether or not these organization-related values are also implemented in patient care.

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