Ethics is a topic that is nearly as old as the human race. Ethics is sometimes referred to a branch of philosophy called moral philosophy. Ethics is often conceptualized as a code or a system meant to categorize or otherwise classify as well as recommend behavior that is right and behavior that is wrong. Ethical codes often describe what right and wrong is in general as well. The practice or application of ethical codes in medicine is additionally an old concept. Some of the oldest and greatest civilizations called for the practice of ethics in medicine. The paper will explore and demonstrate the necessity of ethics in medicine.
Upon completing the requirements for a medical degree, newly degreed physicians take the Hippocratic oath. The Hippocratic oath was originally composed in the 5th century BC. Hippocrates lived during the ancient Greek civilization and is considered in western cultures as the father of medicine. Physicians are supposed to recite this oath (there is more modern version available) and swear to the gods an oath to protect and serve, similar to the duty of law enforcement officers. Hippocrates must have known the numerous kinds of questionable moral predicaments medical practitioners encounter on a regular basis as well as the necessity for physicians to have some sort of ethical compass for guidance. Before medical students are legally able to practice medicine independently for whomever they choose, they must swear to uphold and acknowledge a code of ethics.
Ethics is an intrinsic part of medical practice and shapes the contemporary medical profession. Health and medical practitioners must confront ethical dilemmas on a consistent basis. In other words, ethical dilemmas are not rare phenomena and thus merit special attention. Institutional approaches to ethics must be implemented, in lieu of individual behavior approaches that are based on someone's beliefs or intuition. The statements of medical ethics require the physician to do what is best for the patient and place the patient's interests before the interests of the physician. Above all, the purpose of medical ethics is to protect and defend human dignity and patients' rights. (Elsayed & Ahmed, Medical Ethics, 2009)
Medical ethics is a code that advocates that the physician keep what is best for the patient at the forefront. This tradition in the west is expressed with things such as the Hippocratic Oath.
Medical ethics has grown and changed as medicine over time and expanded to more than just physicians. While the tradition in the west of medical ethics began in Ancient Greece, in modern times, more than just physicians are upheld to a code of ethics. Medical ethics additionally has changed in its meaning over time. There is no doubt that some aspects of medical ethics have changed over the years. Until recently, physicians had the right and the duty to decide how patients should be treated and there was no obligation to obtain the patient's informed consent. In the 21st century, in many countries including the United States of America, healthcare professionals of all kinds must have the consent of the patient, or in the case where the patient is incapacitated, the consent of a family member or spouse must be acquired.
Medical ethics in the narrow historical sense refers to a group of guidelines, such as the Oath of Hippocrates, generally written by physicians, about the physician's ideal relationship to his peers and to his patients. Medical ethics in the modern sense refers to the application of general and fundamental ethical principles to clinical practice situations, including medical research…In recent years, the term has been modified to biomedical ethics which includes ethical principles relating to all branches of knowledge about life and health. Thus, fields not directly related to the practice of medicine are included, such as nursing, pharmacy, genetics, social work, psychology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and the like. In addition, bioethics addresses issues of medical administration, medical economics, industrial medicine, epidemiology, legal medicine, treatment of animals, as well as environmental issues. (Steinberg, Medical Ethics, 1998)
As with the practice and technology of medicine itself, medical ethics has evolved over time. Physicians have always been held responsible for the lives of their patients. There is a necessity for physicians to act with compassion and with ethical consideration. There are often difficult challenges and decisions made in the health care profession. The care and treatment of life is a necessary and delicate profession. This is just one reason why ethics are necessary in medicine. Furthermore, physicians have access to confidential records and a huge array of pharmaceuticals. It is a good idea for responsible and ethical people to serve as doctors. Doctors without ethics are simply dangerous. They have no sense of code of right and wrong; therefore, such physicians' decisions cannot be fully trusted. Trust is an integral element in the relationship and interaction between patient and doctor as well as between the doctor and the patient's family or whomever is in attendance with the patient.
Ethics like culture is relative. What one culture believes is right or wrong, may not hold up as right or wrong in another culture. With regard to the practice of medicine, there is a necessity for regulations or standards in medical ethics.
Ethics is culturally defined. Culture and tradition often outline medical ethics in the context where it should be applied…Applied ethics involves culture and traditions and relies on academia to inform the profession of ethical theories and principles. Professional medical ethics involves expertise from fields such as philosophy, social sciences, medicine, research science, law, and theology. The international guidelines acknowledge that the application of ethical standards needs to account for cultural values and traditions…It is not always advisable to rely on them when medical practitioners are facing critical ethical situations that may specifically relate to local beliefs. In this regard, national guidelines can be beneficial to health care practitioners and ethicists, as these guidelines have the requisite power and authorization. (Elsayed & Ahmed, Medical Ethics, 2009)
There is not only a need for medical ethics, but there is also a need for an international standard for medical ethics. Doctors around the world need medical ethics and those ethics should be relatively the same for doctors in every country, despite differences in culture. There are many situations when doctors from one country or culture are put in situations where they treat patients in different countries or in different cultures. A standard for medical ethics in this way is additionally necessary. International standards for medical ethics ensure that ethics are practice with relative uniformity around the world.
There are many changes in society that influence and necessitate changes and placement of medical ethics. The practice and context in which medicine is practiced varies just as much as culture. As stated in some of the referenced quotations, health care professionals besides physicians must adhere to medical ethics, too. The medical industry has changed partially due to advents in technology and research demand that medical ethics change and spread. Certainly with the advent of technology such as the Internet allows for much more international communication that previously possible.
Developments in science and technology in the twentieth century have led to advances in medicine and health care that have benefited millions of lives. The changing context in which health care is provided has created new challenges for health workers, health researchers, and the broader health care of the community. Medical professionals increasingly find themselves confronted with moral questions and ethical dilemmas. The need to reflect on the moral dimension of advances in medical and health care, science, and technology, combined with the desire to enhance public health efforts, has led to the establishment of a number of international ethical codes and guidelines. The most famous of these guidelines is the Declaration of Geneva, which was adopted…