Distinguishing Between Beneficence & Nonmaleficence

Key Difference – Beneficence vs Nonmaleficence

The ethical concepts of beneficence and nonmaleficence are closely linked and often used in the areas of healthcare and medicine. Beneficence involves taking actions that help others, while nonmaleficence is the principle of doing no harm. The combination of these concepts means that one should act in a way that benefits others while not causing them harm.

What is Beneficence?

Beneficence refers to actions that are performed for the benefit of others. Beneficent actions can help prevent or remove harm or improve the situation of others. Examples of beneficence include rescuing a person from danger, encouraging someone to quit smoking, building a home for a homeless person, and educating people about general sanitation. In the context of medical ethics, beneficence involves taking actions that serve the best interests of patients, such as helping those in need, protecting patients’ rights, providing treatment, and preventing further complications. Beneficence is considered the core value of healthcare ethics.

What is Nonmaleficence?

Nonmaleficence comes from the Latin maxim “primum non nocere,” meaning “first, do no harm.” Examples of nonmaleficence include not saying hurtful things to another person and not giving harmful drugs. In medicine, nonmaleficence might involve stopping a medication that has been shown to be harmful or refusing to provide a treatment that has not been proven effective. Many people believe that nonmaleficence should be the primary ethical consideration, as it is more important not to harm patients than to help them. Since many treatments involve some degree of harm, the concept of nonmaleficence implies that the harm should not be disproportionate to the benefit of the treatment.

What is the difference between Beneficence and Nonmaleficence?

  • Meaning: Beneficence refers to actions that promote the well-being of others, while nonmaleficence means to do no harm.
  • Actions: Beneficence involves helping to prevent or remove harm or improve the situation of others, whereas nonmaleficence simply involves not doing any harmful action.
  • Importance: Beneficence may be secondary to nonmaleficence, which is considered the primary ethical principle.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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