Ethical Issues in Healthcare

This article probes the many ethical issues in regards to healthcare that may arise while a patient is in the care of a medical practitioner. Also things described are the measures that can be taken to make ethical decision making a more seamless process.

Healthcare ethics involves making well researched and considerate decisions about medical treatments, while taking into consideration a patient's beliefs and wishes regarding all aspects of their health. The healthcare industry, above any other, has a high regard for the issues surrounding the welfare of their clientele: their patients. Doctors, nurses, and other professionals who have the ability to affect a patient's health are all forced to make ethical decisions on a daily basis. This power over a patient's wellbeing creates a mandatory need for all healthcare organizations to develop an ethics committee. The committee's goal is to establish a written code of ethics that details the policies and procedures that determine proper conduct for all employees. Doctors, therapists, nurses, and other healthcare providers all work with the committee to assist the patients and their families; all working together cohesively to identify, understand, and resolve difficult ethical decisions.

Managing Major Ethical Issues

There are many ethical issues that may arise in regards to a patient's healthcare. These major issues as well as ways to manage them are as follows:

  • Confidentiality- The protection of private patient information in the medical field is one of the most important ethical issues that may arise in the field of healthcare. Conversations between a patient and a doctor are strictly confidential and access to them is strictly monitored. An ethics committee needs to make sure that its patients' medical records are safeguarded. Thanks to federal and state laws, they now are.
  • Transmission of diseases- The risk posed to doctors and nurses of acquiring a communicable disease from patients is a concern to those serving on ethical committees. This is especially true if a patient's health history is not made available to the providers. While healthcare providers do not want to make the patient uncomfortable by taking obvious protective measures, they still have every right to protect themselves from any pathogens that may be able to spread by direct or indirect contact. Therefore, the hospital and its ethics committee should work together to educate employees on how to protect themselves while still making the patients feel at ease.
  • Aggressive marketing practices - Certain guidelines, ethics, and standards need to be adhered to when promoting and marketing a hospital's services. It is extremely inappropriate for hospitals to recommend unnecessary services to a patient just for the sake of profit. The main goal of the hospital should be patient care, not marketing schemes. Ethical committees should always be involved in the facility's marketing practices in some way so that the result of any marketing campaign is tasteful and sincere.
  • Provided information- The information that a hospital provides to advertising companies needs to be 100% accurate and honest. It is important that the advertisements for the hospital and its services are not misleading or false. Again, the patients' welfare is most important.
  • Patient welfare - A doctor, nurse, and any other type of healthcare professional involved in the care of a patient needs to remember their main motive: safeguarding the welfare of their patients. All personal information needs to be kept private. It is also important that physicians are honest with their patients. No matter what the healthcare provider's personal beliefs are; a patient should never be discriminated against based on race, income, or sex. Reports of such discrimination should be taken very seriously.
  • Elderly patients- Dealing with patients of advanced age may sometimes pose problems in regards to ethical decision making since they are not capable of making rational decisions on their own. As a result, their families are left with the responsibility of making difficult choices. This task can be incredibly difficult when the patient is terminally ill and wants to end their life in order to avoid unnecessary suffering. Even if the ethical committee has a difference of opinion regarding such matters, proper ethical protocol needs to be adhered to at all times. It is always best to check if the patient has a living will so that unnecessary confusion can be avoided.
  • Terminally ill patients - As with elderly patients, terminally ill patients may have specific wishes for the manner in which they want their lives to end. Dealing with an issue such as euthanasia is very difficult and therefore requires a deep understanding of ethical processes.
  • Sexual harassment - The ethical committee should be very strict about sexual harassment of any kind at the healthcare facility. There is a risk of occurrence not only between a patient and a doctor, but also between two medical practitioners.  When such situations arise, the ethical committee should involve a branch of ethics called sexual ethics, which involves any issue regarding sexuality and sexual behavior.
  • Therapies - There are different techniques and therapies that can be performed with a patient or victim so that any trauma or stress related to an offending incident can be alleviated. Hearings and investigations into the incident may also occur.

There is a vast range of ethical issues that may arise in the field of healthcare today. A hospital's ethical committee has the responsibility to make sure that all of its practitioners are aware of the principals of ethical decision making.


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