Ethical and legal implications of prescribing drugs

Every day patients and their families entrust health practitioners with their lives. They believe that they can provide solutions to their problems. Sometimes clinicians end up ruining the lives of patients through clinical negligence such as medical errors. Clinicians should be accountable and responsible. They should use the power bestowed on them by patients to bring about a positive impact in their lives. They are ethically and legally obliged not to harm patients.

Medication is one of the ways that doctors use to cure patients. Only qualified doctors are allowed to prescribe medication. They prescribe medicine depending on the patient’s ailment. A patient is entitled to informed consent. This means that doctors should explain why they are prescribing the medication, expected outcomes, and side effects.

A doctor should consider allergies and the condition of the patient. In case of any medical errors, the doctor should notify the patient, highlight the possible harm and explain strategies they will use to mitigate such situations from reoccurring in the future. A doctor can be sued due to medical errors.

Before offering the medication, the doctor should access the patient’s problem. Determine the significance of drug therapy and the objective. Choose medication for the ailment. Provide the patient with information and instructions about the drug, and later follow up with the patient to track progress. A clinician can use electronic drug references and prescribing software to minimize errors.

A health practitioner should ask themselves several questions before giving patients medication. The type of drug to prescribe depending on the diagnosis, the number of times it should be administered and whether it will cause any complications to the patients. After determining the drug, they should proceed to explain the details about the drug to the patient and indicate the name of the drug, strength, route, and frequency.  One can use a computer to type or freehand. In some states in the US, it is illegal to prescribe medication to friends due to fears that the relationship might cloud the clinician’s decision-making process.

Patients are prohibited from buying some drugs such as opioids over the counter. These are strong painkillers used for chronic pain and disabilities. The restrictions of accessing these painkillers were implemented after it was discovered that opioids lead to the use of heroin and other narcotics. Clinicians are advised to use other painkillers other than opioids and in cases where they have to prescribe them to the patients. They have to explain the risks and outcomes.


Weber, L. J. (2006). Profits before people?: Ethical standards and the marketing of prescription drugs. Indiana University Press.

Mandry, T. (2004). Legal implications of pharmacogenomics regarding drug trials, drug labeling, and genetic testing for drug prescription: an international approach. Food & Drug LJ59, 519.

Rothstein, M. A., & Epps, P. G. (2001). Ethical and legal implications of pharmacogenomics. Nature Reviews Genetics2(3), 228.

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