What Are the Ethical Principles of Non-Maleficence?

The principle of non-maleficence refers to the duty of doctors to avoid any treatment that is known as being useless or acting against the best interests of the patient. An example of a non-maleficent action is the decision of a doctor to end a course of treatment that is harmful to the patient.

The term non-maleficence means “to do no harm” and is an ethical principle that often opposes beneficence, which involves considering the benefits of a certain treatment and balancing them against any possible side effects that may occur. The ethical principles of beneficence and non-maleficence derive from the paternalistic type of doctor-patient relationship that only started to change in the 20th century by giving more autonomy to the patient, according to Alzheimer Europe.