Well-known and Highly Debated Ethical Issues in the Medical Field

Ethical Issues in the Medical Field
Ethical issues in the medical field are invariably accompanied by legal issues, and the typical causes include societal and professional misconduct. This Buzzle article informs you regarding the ideal code of conduct for medical ethics and related issues.
WellnessKeen Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
The concept of ethics being very subjective and philosophical remains in the domain of the unsaid and unset. It is something which we appreciate but are apprehensive of, at least when it comes to dealing with people. Although this sounds like a blame, it is true in most of us. We sometimes tend, or even prefer, to keep ethics on the back seat.
With the changing times, it is essential to know the ethical as well as legal issues in the medical field. Having a brief insight into these issues would practically help us at times of medical emergencies, or when someone close to us is unwell. Some of the well-known and debated ethical issues are cited in a list below given along with certain values included in medical ethics.
Let's begin with the definition of medical ethics, and then go through several ethical issues faced in the field of medicine.
Meaning of Medical Ethics
Medical ethics is a discipline of moral principles that include values and judgements applicable to medical practice.

These issues emerge from certain segments of healthcare which are listed below.
  • Matters related to infertility or any reproductive health issue. A good example can be surrogacy.
  • Experimentation with genes or cloning is another of such issues that is very controversial and debatable.
  • Child health and maltreatment.
  • Dealing with terminal illnesses, which has triggered an euthanasia (mercy killing) debate.
  • Organ transplants count as one of the major issues in medical ethics.
  • Treatment to the mentally gifted.
  • Experimentation of new drugs or modes of treatment on animals/humans by ways of deception.
Values in Medical Ethics
Principle of Autonomy
This principle works on the maxim of Voluntas aegroti suprema lex, which means that the patient is at liberty to make his/her own decision as to what treatment he/she wants to undergo and under whom. However, this doesn't relieve the doctors of his/her responsibility to ensure the health of the patient. The doctors on their part must inform the patient about the disease, and all the available options for treatment. They have to help the patient take an informed decision.
Principle of Beneficence
This principle is based on the Salus aegroti suprema lex  maxim. This principle states that all medical procedures should be strictly used only to help cure an ailment and nothing else that is artificial or involves experimenting. This is usually advocated by the churches in reference to reproduction-related problems or infertility. For example, 'In Vitro Fertilization' (IVF) and surrogacy are two major causes for unnatural fusing of ova and sperm, and thus deterring the natural process of childbirth.
Principle of Non-maleficence
This particular term non-maleficence  is a common legal term in many countries. It literally means non-harmful in Latin. Derived from the maxim primum non nocere, it states that whatever the way of treatment, the doctor cannot or, in fact, should not harm the patient in any way. Keeping in mind, the main goal of maintaining and eventually improving a patient's health, the doctor should look forward to prescribing medication or a treatment method that is beneficial and does no harm to the patient. However, in severe cases where treating might do harm but non-treatment can do even more harm; doctors should necessarily choose the former and treat, as taking a chance is always in the interest of the patient (less harm is better than more harm).
Double Effect
As the name suggests, double effect refers to two effects resulting from a common action. Effects necessarily on the patient's health, and action as in the medication or method of treatment. A very popular example is the administering of analgesics in a dying patient; these ease the pain and suffering of the patient; however, they also take a toll on his/her life by suppressing the respiratory system.
Examples
Ethical issues in the medical field also emanate from several social as well as professional setbacks. Below listed are several issues which are subject to societal non-acceptance, and unprofessional behavior on the part of the doctors.
Social Issues
  • Abortion and should parental consent be made mandatory
  • Physician's obligation in preventing violence
  • Artificial insemination by known as well as unknown donors
  • Childbirth and life-terminating options
  • Divulging personal information of patients while police interrogation
  • Biomedical research
  • Human tissue usage
  • Genetic engineering
  • Gene therapy
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Organ transplants
  • Stem cell storage
  • Maternity and surrogacy
  • Euthanasia
Professional Issues
  • Doctors practicing without proper license.
  • Health practitioners referring to other professionals
  • Sexual harassment in the course of treatment or consultation
  • Experiments on dead bodies by interns and students from the medical field
  • Charging fees
  • Maintaining confidentiality of patient records
  • Information access to non-medical staff
  • Negligence towards a patient by doctors or nurses
  • Emergency preparedness
The above listed social and professional issues lead to medical ethical issues either in combination or isolation. Examples of some popular medical ethical issues are listed below.
Ethical Issues
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Human cloning
  • Birth control
  • Bioethical issues
  • Gender selection
  • Psychology issues
  • Animal experimentation
  • Drug testing and legalization
  • Stem cell research
  • HIV/AIDS infected patients and physicians
  • Transgender surgery
  • Vaccinations
Now that you are aware of the norms and ethics prevalent in the medical field, make use of this knowledge wisely, and in your own personal interest.