Difference between Beneficence and Non-maleficence

Differencebetween Beneficence and Non-maleficence

Differencebetween beneficence and non-maleficence

Beneficencerefers to an action done for other people to benefit from. Beneficentactions may be for the prevention or removal of harm or to simplymake the situation better. In clinical applications, physicians areexpected to stay away from causing harm, but at the same time areobligated to assist their patients (Melia, 2004). More often, theethicists distinguish the difference between ideal and obligatorybeneficence. For an ideal beneficence, extreme acts or attempts ofgenerosity to be of benefit to others are on all possible occasions.

Physicians, according to Melia (2004), do not necessarily have tolive up to the full definition of the word, but the main aim ofmedicine is to focus on the patients’ welfare. Because of thenature of relationship between both physicians and doctors, thedoctors are also obligated to remove or prevent harm, while weighingpossible advantages against the risks of their actions (Melia, 2004).Examples of these beneficent actions include giving vaccinations tothe public, resuscitating victims, and talking about prevention ofSTDs to the public.

Onthe other hand, non-maleficence refers to doing no harm. Physicianshave to refrain from offering ineffective form of treatments orbehaving with a sense of malice towards the patients. However, thisprinciple provides little guidance to the physicians considering manyof beneficial therapies have high risks (Melia, 2004). Clinicalapplications include provision of ineffective treatments. This isbecause it offers high risk without the possibility of havingbenefits, and therefore harming patients. According to Melia (2004),the principle is more helpful when it is more balanced againstbeneficence. An example of non-maleficent action includes stoppingmedication process, which is shown to be more harmful and refusing tooffer treatment not shown to be more effective.


Melia,K. M. (2004). Healthcare ethics: Lessons from intensive care.London: Sage Publications.