Saturday, March 17, 2012

Medical Ethics

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Ethics deals with the values of Human life and with the sort of Behaviour and actions that are approved of, or disapproved, by society. It is about doing the right thing as we go about our daily activities. Medical Ethics is a recent discipline, but its roots date back to the first time a person allowed permission to be treated by someone else.

As soon as one person takes action that might affect the health and well being of another, questions of ethics will inevitably arise. Medicine has always been concerned with ethics because it is about making choices, for example, Will this form of treatment be good for the patient? Is it right to treat one person and not another?

Medical Ethics is about the moral issue that surrounds Medical decisions and the search for new forms of treatment and disease prevention. It involves the professions of Medicine, Nursing and the Law, as well as philosophical considerations and Religious Beliefs.

In the realm of health care it is difficult to hold rules or principles that are absolute. This is due to the many variables that exist in the context of clinical cases as well as the fact that in health care there are several principles that seem to be applicable in many situations. Even though they are not considered absolute, these rules and principles serve as powerful action guides in clinical medicine. Over the years, these moral principles have won a general acceptance as applicable in the moral analysis of ethical issues in medicine.

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The ethics of medical research were more recently codified and adopted after abuses of ethical and moral standards by Nazi doctors in WWII concentration camps. Such abuses have not been exclusive to wartime. Doctors of the American Public Health Service committed ethical misconduct and racism in human research by denial of treatment for syphilis in African-American men from 1 to 17 in Tuskegee, Alabama. In the future medical ethics will adapt to changes in science and society, but must remain rooted in beneficence, respect for persons, and justice. Continuing evolution in medical ethics is occurring with the advent of new reproductive technologies, the Human Genome Project, cloning, stem cells, gene therapy, and xenotransplantation.

An example of community opinions regarding Medical Ethics is Organ Transplants. On the face of it, there seems to be little reason to question the ethics behind transplanting organs. Apparently one of the greatest achievements of modern surgery, tens of thousands of people are given a new lease on life through the selfless altruism of others who choose to find hope in the midst of tragedy, literally giving of their own bodies in the effort to save others.

But this really is more appearance than fact, because right under the surface lurks a morass of ethical dilemmas and controversies, which have threatened to undermine the entire practice of transplanting organs. These problems have only grown in scope as new medical advances have been made in recent years, with little prospect of an easy resolution any time soon.

What are the sources of organs used in transplantation? How can we make the procurement system more efficient? Should we pay for organs? Should someone who has already received one transplant be allowed a second? Should alcoholics be given liver transplants? Are transplants really worth the tremendous costs? Lying at the heart of most of these ethical debates are the twin questions of procurement and distribution. How do we get organs, and how do we decide who will receive the implants? There are always fewer donors than there are potential recipients, and thats why some 5,000 people die every year while waiting for new organs. As far as distribution goes, everyone has to be able to pay in order to receive a transplant - and that is why many poor people never undergo the process. Overall, transplants are a procedure for people with lots of money or lots of insurance. But should the choice of who gets new organs also depend upon social worth? That is to say, should a doctor get a new organ but a prisoner be refused? What about alcoholics - should they be denied new livers because they deserve what has happened to them?

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