When it comes to health care ethical issues, there are almost as many ethical issues as there are health issues to be treated. There are laws in place to direct the behavior of almost every person in the health care personnel chain, from the nurse to the nurses aide who assists them and the doctor who ultimately gets to try and make the decisions to treat within the confines of the insurance system ruling over the life of the patient in question.
There are ethical issues that are clearly defined, such as the requirements for treatment decisions when a patient has a Medical Power of Attorney or a Living Will. Then there are thealth care ethical issues that don’t have such clearly defined areas, such as whether it is allowable to withhold a possible lifesaving treatment from a patient only because their insurance will not pay for it.
Health care providers must make their treatment decisions based on a great many determining factors, perhaps the most constraining of which is the insurance reimbursement regime. If doctors and other health care providers could just treat their patients and have only that to worry about, what a wonderful world it would be. But doctors have to constantly worry about whether or not they and possibly the facility where they practice will be paid by the insurance companies. The next most important factor which affects health care providers ability to provide the care patients truly need is whether or not the patient has been truthful with the information they have given to the health care provider, and whether or not they have had access to health care to establish and maintain their health care needs.
Ethical concerns also come into play with patients whose family constellations are unclear. A patient who has a spouse has a straightforward next of kin when decisions have to be made. When a patient is separated from their spouse, and even perhaps has a new significant other, the next of kin can be much more difficult to determine, and protecting all health care providers-doctors, hospitals, etc from the liability risk of allowing the person who does not have a legal right to make decisions for a patient is a necessity. The health care ethical issues presented by these kinds of situations are very delicate.
One important ethical concern in health care is the need to protect oneself from the very real danger of the transmission of communicable diseases in bodily fluids. Especially in cases where a patients history is not available, health care providers have the right and the responsibility to protect themselves from viruses and bacteria that may be present in the body fluids of patients to which they are exposed taking care of these patients. However, this must be balanced with the possibility of making patients feel accused or uncomfortable by these same protective measures.
One last important health care ethical issues, especially in this day in age, is the protection of private, personally identifying information. Patients records used to be kept in public places where almost anyone could read them-filing pockets outside their doors, for instance. This kind of situation is not longer allowed, and records are more closely guarded nowadays, and many hospitals now rely on records kept entirely on computers.
Ethical issues are a part of almost every field, but health care has a special place in the system, where people are trusted with making those who are sick feel better, those who are injured able to return to their prior lives, and those who have chronic conditions and those who love them more able to cope with the demands of living with those conditions.