Healthcare ethics refers to values and principles that guide medical practitioners in decision assembly. Matters that relate to patients and their well-being are of significance in the medical industry. Medical practitioners face situations that have an influence on other people’s lives. However, these situations often create ethical dilemmas for medical practitioners. Many healthcare providers establish ethics committees and define ethical codes and policies to guide medical practices. Nonetheless, various ethical issues still exist in healthcare management. This paper discusses ethical issues that exist in healthcare administration, provision and research.
Confidentiality is the foremost ethical issue in healthcare provision and management. In the medical industry, confidentiality refers to the safety of patient information. Patient information is personal and private. Healthcare practitioners must protect conversations that they have with their patients (UKCEN, 2012). Improvements in the storage of health records have taken place over the years. Earlier, almost anybody could gain access to health records. However, human beings are social actors, and vital information about patients can be shared in conversations. Moreover, patient information may be shared with individuals who are not healthcare providers. The passage of patient information to unauthorized persons is an ethical issue that should not take place (Kerridge, Lowe & McPhee, 2005). It is an infringement of the privacy of patients. The principle of confidentiality in healthcare requires health practitioners not to reveal patient’s information to unauthorized persons. Disciplinary actions should be enacted in case a health practitioner violates the principle of confidentiality.
The other ethical issue that exists in healthcare provision relates to decisions to terminate a patient’s life. The issue of whether to end a patient’s life or not is termed euthanasia. Humans should not determine the time at which death occurs. It can lead to the development of problems for all individuals involved with a patient. Decisions to end an individual’s life can be a foundation for disagreement between a patient’s family and health professionals. Moreover, it can cause conflict between members of a medical team that treats a patient. A decision to end a patient’s life leads to the development of an ethical dilemma due to conflict in duty to the sick individual (UKCEN, 2012). Some diseases are untreatable and cause discomfort and pain to patients. Health professionals may recommend the termination of the life of a patient who has such a disease. This means that the health professionals will proceed in the sick person’s paramount interest. However, it is the duty of health professionals to preserve lives. Hence, the situation presents health professionals with an ethical dilemma. It is believed that human life has value. Therefore, it is inappropriate to take action to terminate an individual’s life even if the quality of his life is low.
Ethical issues in healthcare also arise in the performance of medical studies. The present ethical matters that the healthcare sector faces in medical studies are related to the move towards low-income households and third-world countries. Initially, medical research done by pharmaceutical organizations focused on developed countries. The foremost motivation for the shift in medical research to developing countries is the low investment financial amounts required by investigative projects. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies can perform research in third-world countries faster compared to developed countries (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011). Finally, ethical and health guidelines are not stern in third-world countries. Pharmaceutical companies find it easy to recruit individuals for drug trials in developing countries. High poverty levels in these countries enable rich companies to conduct research. Poor individuals are more likely to agree to participate in medical trials in exchange for money and foodstuffs. The other ethical issue that relates to medical research is the lack of informed consent. Pharmaceutical companies do not usually enlighten partakers about the purpose of research and the negative results of the drugs that they develop before trials are done. The low measure of concern by pharmaceutical businesses in developing countries is a significant moral topic in healthcare presently.
Consent to treatment also presents ethical issues in healthcare provision and management. Consent to treatment forms the foundation of the relationship between health professionals and patients. Patients normally rely on information provided by health professionals. They depend on health professionals’ skills, advice and familiarity. Nonetheless, patients have the authority to accept or decline a treatment method advised by health professionals (UKCEN, 2012). They also have the ability to give health professionals authority to select any treatment method. Shared decision assembly shows the significance of informed consent. Shared decision assembly is reinforced by guidelines and laws used by health professionals. Patients must comprehend information that health professionals provide them with for consent to treatment principle to be meaningful. The information must be sufficient so that a patient can evaluate available treatment options. The difficulty exists in the determination of the suitable amount of information that patients need to make appropriate choices. Difficulty also exists in the evaluation of patients’ ability to comprehend and assess the information provided by health professionals. These difficulties make some health professionals coerce patients. Patients may be forced to accept treatment methods that they do not like. Hence, the subject of consent to treatment presents ethical issues in healthcare provision.
Medical promotion practices also present ethical issues in healthcare. In the promotion of health services, hospitals must ensure the maintenance of standards and ethics. Healthcare promotion ethics requires that the focus must be on patients and not profits (Kerridge, Lowe & McPhee, 2005). Healthcare promotions must put emphasis on patient welfare. Health practitioners have a moral compulsion to provide counsel that is in the best interest of patients’ wellbeing. Patients’ welfare must be considered first whenever conflict arises between their wellbeing and health service fees. Consequently, health facilities should not consider the ability to pay for services when they accept patients (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011). In addition, advertisement of healthcare services must put focus on patients. Advertisements, by their pure nature, encourage consumers to purchase products that they may not even need. However, in healthcare, advertisements must be accurate to prevent persuasion of consumers from the purchase of products that they may not need. Promotion strategies also present ethical issues in healthcare through the practice of fee-splitting. Doctors normally refer patients to other health professionals and then split fees. However, this practice is unethical since it is profit-motivated.
Another ethical issue in healthcare relates to the prevention of disease transmission from patients to health workers. An ethical concern that several health practitioners have is the protection of themselves from communicable diseases (Purtilo & Doherty, 2011). Nurses and doctors must protect themselves from communicable diseases when they treat patients. Protection from communicable diseases is prominent in cases where a patient’s history is not available. Even though health practitioners have a right to shield themselves from transmittable diseases, they must ensure that patients are comfortable. However, patients may deem some of the protective measures unethical. Hence, health practitioners must make these protective measures clear to patients.
Other ethical issues in healthcare provision and management relate to medical procedures used in the treatment of patients. Some societies and religions view certain medical procedures as unethical (Kerridge, Lowe & McPhee, 2005). However, some of the procedures are necessary to save a person’s life. Organ transplantation is a medical practice that some religions perceive to be unethical. It involves the removal and transfer of an organ from one person to another person. An organ can be obtained from a corpse or a living person. It is mainly done due to total organ failure. Organ transplantation surgery can save an individual’s life. Nonetheless, a religion like Islam views it as an ethical issue in medical practice. According to Islam, God entrusts human beings with their bodies and no one should interfere with body organs. Human cloning is the other medical procedure that presents ethical issues in healthcare. In certain societies like in Africa, human cloning is a medical procedure taken to demean the inherent value of human life. Some health professionals argue that cloning is useless and can harm humans. Euthanasia is also a healthcare procedure that results in ethical issues.
There exist other ethical issues in healthcare apart from the ones discussed above. Some of the ethical issues related to the allocation of healthcare resources and treatment of poor and rich patients. Others include management of decisions made by pediatric and elderly individuals and the provision of appropriate work conditions for healthcare professionals. Ethics committees must manage these issues to ensure that health services are not compromised.
Kerridge, I., Lowe, M., & McPhee, J. (2005). Ethics and law for the health professions. Annandale: Federation Press.
Purtilo, R & Doherty, R. (2011). Ethic Dimensions in the Health Profession. Philadelphia: Elsevier Sauders.
UKCEN. (2012). Ethical Issues. Web.