This is the sixth of a seven-part series of posts on the Seven Principles of Bioethics. If you wish to get some context on why I’m doing this (and I recommend you do), please have a look at Autonomy, Benevolence, Non-Malevolence, Justice, and Confidentiality, preferably in that order.
Now, this term usually gets thrown around in talks about marital affairs, but fidelity means to fulfill your obligations regardless of circumstance. And you know what? What better way to explain the problem than with an example? How about a medical one?
Picture, if you will, you as an Accident and Emergency nurse, stabilising a patient in the Intensive Care Unit. After stopping the bleeding from his cuts, removing embedded glass fragments, and tending to his bruises, you learn that the patient has killed three men in a pub brawl, followed by being in a car crash, killing a woman and two toddlers. Do you feel as if you just saved a criminal? What happens then? Would you consider yourself a criminal in helping said man to escape a life-threatening experience?
And to take it back to the example from Confidentiality, if you needed to keep a friend’s deepest, darkest secret, how loyal will you be if you divulged a certain aspect of it? Would you be immediately a terrible friend for slipping out a small detail, or would that be okay? What happens if people start getting a little too curious for comfort, without any rhyme or reason? Things can get iffy when people get too curious without your permission. So what do you do to combat it? And are you a person with fidelity for defending it after you let it slip?
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