Ethical Issues in Dentistry Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Radition Scare

Exposure to Radiation in dentist office is a major concern for parents with little children. While exposure of this kind can be harmful for anyone, its unregulated use in treatment of younger patients is especially alarming. In this article the author highlights the issue of unrelated radiation use in dental offices and one wonders if this is an ethical or business issue.

We can classify this as an ethical issue because even if others are unaware, dentists should be aware of the problems posed by exposure to radiation. If they are, it's even more alarming since that exposes their ignorance. We can assume that they are well aware since they have studied medicine and they are regularly updated about dangers of new technologies. What is however unfortunate is the fact that dentists continue to use X-rays and even some other outdated technologies which emit high radioactive rays and still they do not let the parents make a wiser decision about their child's treatment. It is an ethical issue because it raises serious ethical concerns as it exposes children to the risk of radioactive rays and unfortunately it is done without parents" knowledge.

The Hippocratic Oath clearly states that doctors will not do anyone any harm on purpose. But in the case of radiation scare, it appears that doctors are exposing children to radiation even though they are aware of the problems that excessive exposure can create for young patients.

Above all do no harm is a principle that clearly states the ethical standpoint of medicine. Doctors in all their positions are required to provide service without hurting the patient on purpose. The do no harm principle is a patient centered philosophy which makes patient the most important center of service. In any case, he or she must be treated with utmost care and dignity and should not be exposed to any unnecessary risks and danger. However all that appears to have no impact on dental services since they are still exposing children to radiation…sometimes when it's not even needed.

A reasonable person would want to be aware of the risks that radiation poses to the health and life of a patient. For this reason, parental consent in very important in all dentist services where exposure to radiation is a possibility. For example when an x-ray is being taken, it is important to let the parents know what radiation does and how excessive amount of it can affect a child's health and life.

Kantianism is based on the principle of "Categorical Imperative" which suggests that an action is wrong if a person wouldn't want it to become a universally accepted course of action under similar circumstances. "Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time wills that it becomes a universal law" (Morals, p. xii). Categorical imperative applies when a person chooses a course of action not due to lack of alternatives but unconditionally as if that was the only course of action that deemed right and suitable to him.

Keeping this view in mind, we can apply it the radiation scare case and see how it related to the ethics framework. Will the doctors using this technology want the same technology used on their own children and with same frequency? If the answer is yes, then according to Kantian categorical imperative, the radiation exposure is necessary and cannot be avoided. The doc tors cannot thus be accused of unethical behavior.

However if the answer is No then they are clearly doing something wrong and not in accordance with the Hippocratic Oath. In the modern version of the Oath, we find this statement, "I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism." It appears that excessive exposure to radiation would fall under the concept of overtreatment and it is regarded as something wrong in the Oath and should thus be avoided.

Another important framework to apply here is utilitarian which states that if an action is meant to promote the happiness of the largest number of people then it is a correct action. We see here that dentists are doing everything with one thing in kind: to get the best diagnosis possible. While their action in this regard definitely…

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