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The Life Esidimeni tragedy: Moral pathology and an ethical crisis

A Dhai


The Life Esidimeni tragedy highlights several ethical transgressions. Health professionals’ ethics are put to the test when their own interests are balanced against competing claims. Core values of compassion, competence and autonomy, together with respect for fundamental human rights, serve as the foundation of ethical practice in healthcare. These values are increasingly being challenged by governments and other third parties. The duties conferred on healthcare practitioners require them to act responsibly and be accountable for their actions. Codes in healthcare serve as a source of moral authority. The Gauteng health authorities exerted tremendous power and created a culture of fear and disempowerment among healthcare practitioners. When health professionals choose to support state interests instead of those of patients, problematic dual-loyalty conflicts arise.