We live in a world where we have to make decisions daily. Some of these decisions may be as little as choosing where to place a flower vase in our house or they may be as weighty as having to decide what to do when we are faced with a life threatening situation. Whatever the case may be, we are laden with the responsibility of making a choice. As rational human beings, it is expected of us to seek to make the right decisions. This is because our lives are explained by the decisions we make and the decision we make are essentially going to have an impact on us, whether positive or negative.
In view of this, we must habitually seek to make the right decisions. This and more is the task of the field of philosophy called ethics. Ethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with issues of morality. As an academic field of study, it aims at giving guidelines by which individuals in a society can duly conduct themselves. It deals with issues that pertain to our moral conduct. As a branch of philosophy, ethics deals with issues that pertain to the good life and conducting ourselves in a right manner.
This it does by bringing up theories that prescribes what to do, what not to do, what is right and wrong and the criteria of judging our actions. The scope of ethics is wide as it covers virtually every area of our lives. We are moral agents constantly faced by moral decisions and we have to choose from moral alternatives. Since the nature of philosophy itself is controversial, most issues that are discussed in ethics are open-ended. One major characteristic or any ethical discussion is that it poses the view(s) of two opposing parties.
In view of this, I dare to say that ethics is an enterprise filled with unending controversies. One of such fields in ethics that is filled with controversial issue is medical ethics. In the practice of their profession, doctors are faced with situations that warrant a decision. Naturally, it is the duty of the doctor to value and protect lives. That is the oath is sworn by doctors and they should bare this in mind in the discharge of their duties. They are also bound by some other rules in their code of conduct.
An example of this is the confidentiality that the patient should enjoy. But the question is should this be at all times? The issue of the confidentiality that should exist between a patient and a doctor comes to question. When a doctor is clacking a patient, information exchanges from the patient to the doctor and is kept in the records. Naturally, ethics binds the doctor from giving out such information as it is meant for diagnosis purposes only. The question is should this be at all times, irregardless of any situation?
Some people believe that there are some reasons that supercede the right to confidentiality that should be enjoyed by the patient. This may be due to national security or any other reason that has to do with security. For instance, would we say that a serial killer should enjoy the right to confidentiality? However, some other people say that the patient has a right to confidentiality and that that is part of the inalienable rights that should be enjoyed by him/her. Once this right is taken away, the patient’s trust in the doctor has been betrayed.
Also, if we say that information gotten during diagnosis can be leaked due to serious security reasons, then, how do we determine the level of seriousness? What this means is that overtime, this will be abused and the trust that should be between the patient and the doctor will be undermined. Another issue that raises concern is about the issue of DNRs (Orders not to Resuscitate). These orders have been largely criticized by the scholars and philosophers. They claim that these orders undermine the very reason for the profession of medicine, which is to value and protect lives.
They conclude that it is not right for a doctor to issue such others. As much as these people may have a point, they are not considering the fact that it is not only doctors that have a say in the practice of medicine. The patient also has a right too. For instance, people that belong to the Jehovah’s Witness do not believe in blood transfusion as their religion considers it a sin. Should we then rob them of their religious liberty? They have a right to refuse blood transfusion. Isn’t it their body?