Social and Ethical Issues Concerning New Health Care and Medical Technologies
Communication technologies and information from computers persist to upgrade health care delivery and the scientific comprehension of the human body system and the related diseases that are likely to afflict it (Marckmann and Kenneth 3). Not only has technology advanced the efficiency and quality of patient care, but it also advanced essential social and ethical issues. As a matter of fact, there is a theme known as IRIE, which creates a forum for establishing, examining, and discussing the social and ethical issues resulting from different applications of communication technology and information in healthcare and medicine (Marckmann and Kenneth 3). Discussions under this context outline the social and ethical issues concerning new health care, medical technologies and what the law depicts.
Just like any science in history, Information on medicine has rapidly evolved in different dimensions, such as a collection of information to its storage, all the way to its analysis and transmission. Health professionals nowadays opt for intelligent machines for their clinical research and practices. A platform has been created whereby theoretical ethics and applied tools can be applied to track and offer guidance to scientific changes (Marckmann and Kenneth 4). It is for this and other reasons why ethics should not lag behind in the medical field. However, a concern is raised if the machine used tends to cause risks to patients the same way concern is also raised when a technological machine is not used all the same. Concerns over ethical analysis and tensions emerge as a moral imperative. In the medical field, ethics is defined as the starting point where the law marks an end. Law and ethics have a common goal of producing and sustaining social good. Ethics norm is extracted from the law, institutional practices, policies of professional organizations, and standards of professional care. Some of the common issues that concern provider-patient communication and medical decision-making are as follows:
Surrogate decision making
To establish if a patient has the capacity to offer informed consent, judgment must be documented by a treating health care provider. The provider can then decide on either permanent or temporary incapacity keeping in mind that the determination has to relate to a specified decision. Competency is a legal term commonly used to elaborate decision-making capacity on the judicial determination (Brock 1). The state statutes or court order authorizes the designation of a surrogate decision-maker. Should a court examine a patient’s incompetence, then the professional care provider must have informed consent from a decision-maker appointed in court. For instance, in a scenario whereby a guardian is selected by the court for guardianship action, the professional care provider seeks the guardian’s informed consent so long as health care decision-making is rendered by the relevant law court (Brock 1).
Professional care providers are expected to make efforts, which are reasonable in order to trace a person who can be offered informed consent in the highest category. If two or more persons are present in that category, take for instance adult children, the decision on medical treatment has to be unanimous among the involved parties. One unique qualification of a surrogate decision-maker is to decide what she believes would have been preferred by the patient. Substituted judgment is the standard of decision-making. Should the surrogate fail to decide on what the patient would have opted for, the surrogate then consents to medical treatment based on the interests of the patient. Surrogate decision-making laws are eventually connecting with social changes. Take for instance a scenario whereby non-married couples (could be same-sex or heterosexual) are not traditionally recognized by law states with surrogate decision-makers legal authorization. Providers in challenging legal positions are encouraged to differ in decision-making due to failure of recognition. In Washington law, for instance, the spouses and domestic partners are recognized with the same priority status by the state (Brock 2).
Disclosing Medical Error: Provider-patient Communication
Health care providers need to deliver honest communication to patients since it is regarded as an ethical imperative. Improved communication reduces or eliminates the possibility of misunderstanding and the possible conflict within the health care setting and furthermore minimizes the chances of the provider being sued by the patient. A major burning issue arising from the communication context is whether medical errors should be disclosed to patients and if yes, when and how the health providers should do it. Medical error disclosure promulgates a possible war among clinical ethics, risk management, and law. Health care providers are advised to commit to honest ethical communication or risk citing fear litigation for non-disclosure. Increased malpractice claims can negatively influence the malpractice insurance coverage and the claim history of the provider (Brock 3).
However, prompt payment doubled with disclosure and an apology decreases the possibility of the legal claim amount. The provider’s apologies alongside their disclosures are protected by several legislatures from being utilized as proof by patients of the provider’s liability in malpractice litigation. Nevertheless, it is never clear whether the legal protections might influence the frequency or size of claims in medical malpractice. It is for this reason that providers are encouraged to involve the legal counsel and risk management in case of error disclosure in decision-making (Brock 3).
Brock, Lisa. “Clinical Ethics and Law.” Law and Medical Ethics: Ethical Topic in Medicine. 3, 2006. Web. 13 Apr. 2014. <https://depts.washington.edu/bioethx/topics/law.html>.
Marckmann, Georg, and Kenneth Goodman. “IRIE.” Introduction: Ethics of Information Technology in Health Care. 2, 2009. Web. 13 Apr. 2014. <http://www.i-r-i-e.net/inhalt/005/Marckmann-Goodman.pdf>.