how has ethics in healthcare changed over time
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How has ethics in healthcare changed over time

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The third is that the process of social ethics indeed acts in the opposite direction to the cosmic process—that is, evolution—in that medical science and the wish to help others inhibits the process of survival of the fittest. Thus doctors can be seen as the main agents for interfering with nature. When men have found some general propositions that could not be doubted of, as soon as understood, it was, I know, a short and easy way to conclude them innate.

This being once received it eased the lazy from the pains of search, and stopped the inquiry of the doubtful, concerning all that was once styled innate: and it was of no small advantage to those who affected to be masters and teachers, to make this the principle of principles, that principles must not be questioned.

Ethics have changed because of the theories of Darwin. These two quotations set out the territory and the possible conflicts. Can values change, and if they do, what changes them?

In brief, the conclusion is that values can and do change, though certain core values may be unaltered over a long period of time. The mechanism of these changes will also be considered. Over the years this subject has changed and it has been evident that attitudes and values have also changed.

Three brief examples illustrate this. When the author qualified in the mid s, communication with patients seemed to have a low priority, though many teachers were particularly skilled in the process. Patients were rarely told the diagnosis, and indeed what the patient was told was not conveyed to other doctors. In there was a review of letters sent to general practitioners GPs from a well known surgical unit.

All patients had had the diagnosis of cancer confirmed. In all instances the GPs were told the diagnosis, the details of the surgical procedure—including the type of sutures used, but in only two cases was the doctor told what the patient had been told about the illness. My experience as a professor of oncology, again in , taught me that it was very unusual for the patient to have been told of the diagnosis before referral.

Patients are seen as full partners in the process and informed and involved in decision making. Looking back to the student experience it is not difficult to see why such attitudes occurred. Here is a quote from a handbook of clinical methods used widely in the s. The interrogation of the patient. The interrogation must be patiently carried out, the patient being allowed, as far as possible, to tell his story in his own words.

One patient is a good witness and another poor. One gives an excellent history. Another has to have the history of his illness dragged out of him by methods of slow extortion, and even then a great deal of what he says may prove irrelevant. Some patients seem quite unable to give any precise account of what they feel to be wrong. This may be due to stupidity or to the effects of disease on their mental faculties.

It is quite impossible to think that such attitudes would be written about in this way now. In addition, it was quite frowned upon to become involved with patients: it would cloud clinical judgment and the doctor must remain disinterested and aloof. This concept, in summary, states that in life saving decisions at the end of life only ordinary means or techniques should be used, that is techniques which would be considered routine and not out of the ordinary.

It is clear that over the years the definition as to what is ordinary and what is not ordinary has changed considerably and thus the decisions to be taken, and knowing how far one can go to prolong life, have become more difficult. In a similar way it is perversely much easier to make decisions about treating an illness if the illness cannot be treated, though not for the patient, it must be added.

Once treatment becomes available a whole range of new questions arise, from access to care, the costs of treatment, the facilities available, and the choice of the patient. It is also clear that public and professional views on euthanasia have changed over the years.

The debate is more widespread and recent well publicised cases both in the UK and overseas have stimulated this discussion. Those who 20 years ago might have dismissed the concept out of hand are now prepared to at least discuss the topic. Why has this happened?

Part of the explanation must be that as a society we are living longer and thus subject to an increasing number of debilitating diseases at a time when family structures are dissolving. Such changes in social and cultural values are likely to impact on professional practice at some point and illustrate an issue which will be picked up later, namely that doctors and other health professionals are part of civil society and react to changes within it.

These three examples encouraged our think tank to review other areas where changes in practice have resulted from changes in ethical principles. It began with a look at the Hippocratic Oath by asking how many of the principles remain intact.

Here are a few comments. Written in 4th century Greece, the context and the content are quite different from today.

There is no mention of rationing, public health or research. Nevertheless, some important points emerge. The Hippocratic Oath makes it clear that abortion should not be performed. Yet at the present time over one hundred thousand are carried out each year in Britain by doctors, some of whom at least have taken the Hippocratic Oath.

The oath makes it clear that everything in the consultation should be kept secret and be confidential between the patient and the doctor. This is clearly not the case nowadays. Information is shared widely among the team, and indeed circulated to a range of non-professionals for a variety of purposes.

For the benefit of patients. Most doctors would agree with this, but most would also recognise that this is just not possible in all circumstances. Resources and facilities may not be available for the best to be done. Clinical trials are another example of how a particular treatment may not be for the benefit of an individual patient, but may benefit future patients.

Health care reforms. Who would have believed 20 years ago that doctors in Britain would be talking the language of the market. Cost benefit analysis, audit, priorities, rationing, governance, etc all trip off the tongue with ease. What a remarkable change in values.

Lifestyle issues. Now that there is clear evidence that some lifestyle issues are closely associated with ill health, smoking being the obvious example, it was only a small step to suggest that those with smoking related illness should not be treated in the National Health Service NHS since they had brought the disease on themselves. Such a view, suggested by some doctors and organisations, would not have been considered 20 years ago.

Of all the techniques for improving health vaccination is one of the most successful and cost effective. It is well recognised that a small number of complications can result from the procedure. As the knowledge of the wild type infection recedes in the population there is questioning as to whether vaccination is still needed. The disease has gone, hence the need for vaccination has disappeared.

Again, there has been a very considerable change in views. HIV infection. Apart from some important players it was not taken very seriously. As a problem it had little consequence for the population. If we accept for the moment that values can and do change and many other examples could be used what is it that causes the change? Three possible mechanisms can be considered. This is the most obvious, and comes in two forms. The first is new knowledge about existing problems or techniques, and the second comes from completely new areas of work.

In the first category, new drug treatments and modifications of existing surgical practice may add to the ethical implications. It is in the brand new areas, however, where completely original problems are created, that most of the interest lies.

Here are some examples. This was a very significant development. First with kidneys, and then with hearts, lungs, and livers. It meant that doctors had to rethink who owned an organ and who could give permission for it to be used.

Xenotransplantation was even more interesting. How different was it, though, from the use of other tissues of animal origin in surgical practice? Contraception, including emergency contraception. While contraception had always been available, the advent of the contraceptive pill changed everything. It was readily available and easy to use. Coming as it did, with a liberalisation of sexual attitudes, it changed habits and behaviour. While things changed again with HIV infection and the need to use condoms, the process had already begun.

It would now be possible to have casual sex and deal with the consequences the next day. How would doctors react? Was this not just like an abortion? Who would you have to tell, whose permission would need to be sought?

What if the person was under age? None of these questions were new, but the technology forced doctors and others to question again the basic values and beliefs, and how they impinged on clinical practice.

Infertility treatment. This has developed very rapidly over the last 20 years. We have gone from artificial insemination to egg donation and surrogate mothers.

Was it a disease anyway, and why should it be treated on the NHS? These and many other questions needed to be reviewed again. The latest in a long line of wonder drugs to hit the clinic. This one, however, has some new characteristics. It is expensive, but so are others. Should such a drug be freely available on the NHS? This is one of the most significant technical achievements in recent science. The possibilities are considerable, but at the same time they raise major ethical issues.

Should human cloning be allowed? How far should research be encouraged and funded? If it is not done in this country will others go ahead anyway? The fundamental questions of course relate to the concept of personhood, and how that might change if human cloning became a reality. Genetic modification of food. This has turned out, in this country at least, to be one of the most hotly debated topics of recent years.

How should foods be produced? What say do I have in the process? Where has my choice gone? Genetic screening. This is not a new concept since the cruder process of family history taking has been used for decades. It is the sophistication of the technology, however, and its broadening scope, which has changed the picture.

At the moment it is single gene defects which are the commonest of the genetic problems detected. In the future it will be complex patterns of genetic coding which will change the probability for the appearance of a disease. These raise important issues such as confidentiality of the information, employment prospects, and insurance implications. In the list given above a wide range of possibilities exists for significant change in how we think. If any of the implications and consequences come about then there will need to be a significant relook at our values and concepts of ethical issues.

In essence new knowledge indicates what we can and could do. The question which is raised is whether we ought and should do it. It would be fair to say that perhaps with one or two exceptions there are no new ethical problems, only modifications of existing ones. Nevertheless they will alter our thinking. This could mean telling a third party against the wishes of the patient.

A second new ethical problem is cloning which, if applied to humans, could radically alter our thinking and practice. These have changed very considerably over the years, and continue to do so. They are reflected in how we dress, how we use our increasing leisure time, how we view authority, and in many other ways. Part of this process has been our changing views of major social and ethical issues.

Examples of this might include:. Public views of the medical profession. There is now, quite properly, greater questioning of the role of doctors and the way in which the medical profession operates and regulates itself. Role of authority. Less credence is now given to the role of the church and other sources of authority. Increasing interest in human rights, and now animal rights.

The human rights movement has been growing and there is greater awareness as to what these rights are and how they can be used. Religious intolerance, racial hatred.

In spite of greater internationalisation, racial and religious intolerance is a major source of conflict across the world. It can be a significant barrier to change. Rise in single issue groups—for example, environment, and health issues. Almost all illnesses and diseases have pressure groups whose function is, again quite properly, to fight for the rights of their own members.

This can sometimes change the decision making process in a way which disadvantages other groups, and in particular those patient groups who are less able to get organised and put their case.

Role of information technology IT and the internet. The ready access to information will also be a significant source of change. Patients already come to the clinic with their printouts, and the numbers of them doing so is likely to increase.

The quality of information may be a major problem. As a vehicle for changing the medical profession, however, it is likely to be very powerful. Changing attitudes to the family and to sexual relations. Over the last 30 years we have seen very significant shifts in family life and attitudes to sex. Doctors, as part of society, cannot fail to be influenced by this.

Contraception, abortion, and the care of the elderly all fall into this category. Even within a single population, of relatively small size, there will be significant variation in social and cultural views. This makes it particularly difficult to reflect all the views of society when a major decision has to be made—for example, on a risk issue.

How this heterogeneity is expressed following a decision by someone in authority is sometimes difficult to predict. Suffice it to say that attitudes and values in society as a whole are constantly changing and the values within the medical profession reflect this.

There is little doubt that we all change with time. Our tastes, hobbies, political views, and friendships all change. These are a result of experiences, some good and some bad. We learn through stories and real events what matters to us, and what does not. Although law, repression of crimes, prevention of incorrect behaviours through internal and external monitoring systems, transparency and citizen empowerment could help to correct and prevent specific situations, health care organizational ethics and professional ethics are able guarantee the constant implementation of correct behaviour.

Precondition for the diffusion and the rooting of the organizational ethics is the achievement of a sense of belonging to a system and its objectives. However, this is not enough to develop an ethical organization in which each practitioner feels part and protagonist of a complex patient-centered system whose purpose is to protect the most basic of rights.

Interpreting the ethical sphere of an organization and presiding over its functions and characteristics goes through the perspectives articulated by two substantial determinants:. In conclusion, ethics of organizational change is perhaps the most emergent issue in recent years, representing the main challenge for the management of public healthcare enterprises: not only to take charge of governing a system of highly trained professionals but also to increasingly involve them in self-identifying with the healthcare enterprise and its goals.

The health organizational discipline has made a great progress in recent years becoming able to perform the role of vigilance towards unethical behaviours creating appropriate organizational contexts and, at the same time, governing a process of identity matching between the individual Professional and the healthcare enterprise. Acta Biomed. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

Gramsci, 14 - Parma, Italy Tel. Received Feb 22; Accepted Feb This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4. Abstract The article addresses the increasingly important issue of organizational ethics in healthcare. Keywords: ethics, clinical governance, healthcare organization, health product design. The fields of application of organizational ethics are: the ethics of financial management to guarantee sustainability and equity of access ,.

References 1. Armenakis AA. Bedeian AG. Organizational Change: A Review of Theory and research in the s. Journal of Management. Dal Santo P. Grompi A. Pecere G. Pegoraro R. Scaranello F. Tartari S. Regio Decreto. Balestrino A. Campaniello G.

Healthcare over in changed has how time ethics juniper space network director

How has ethics in healthcare changed over time Voer access : Healthcare facilities make access to care as simple as possible, including access to scheduling, referrals, and transportation. The nearer the centre the greater the likelihood that the values will be widely agreed and change only slowly. Some examples of this would source those taken from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 8 and might include: Article 1. Romanes lecture. Apart from some important players it was not taken very seriously. It has hea,thcare necessary to rethink our concepts and how we operate them.
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