Medical Ethics Essay

This essay has a total of 2960 words and 15 pages.

Medical Ethics

Medical Ethics

“ Bioethics comprise every possible aspect of health care, medical, moral, social,
political, religious, legal and financial” (Weiss 3). This includes the questions raised
by new research. It takes a look at the results of that research that is used on patients.
It takes into consideration contemporary ideas of personal freedom and human dignity. It
deals with growth in medical services available in the United States and the sky rocketing
cost. Bioethics also deals with the medical advances in technology that has reshaped
traditional medical ethics.

Medical ethics have changed drastically over a period of years. From old commandments to
new commandments, guidelines that provide structural framework, classic experiments that
challenge that framework, or even how things are defined in medical ethics. “Medical
progress goes on, and the perils of progress must be heeded” (Leone 165).

Changing times have in turn changed our codes of ethics. There are five old commandments
of ethics and five new commandments of ethics. These commandments come from many years of
heavily advised dictates from various people. A commandment by definition is, “ ... a
dictate or a strongly advised piece of advice” (Halsey 201). The first traditional
commandment is, “ Treat all human life as of equal worth” (Singer 190). This statement is
very difficult to follow; almost no person believes this statement whole-heartedly. The
statement makes more sense on paper or just being heard, but its application in life is
almost impossible to ensure. In comparison to the first old ethic, the first new ethic
states, “Recognize that the worth of human life varies” (Singer 190). This statement
allows for variation and livability in society. It gives way for someone to say, if a
person is a vegetable, has no vital capabilities, this person’s life is of no worth
anymore. Without this sort of change in today’s advancing civilization, it would make it
ethically wrong to “pull the plug” (Rothstein 1698.)

The next commandment of old ethics is, “ Never intentionally take innocent human life”
(Singer 192). If a doctor or any health care professional just stood by during the birth
of a child and both the child and the mother were dying, how could that doctor stand there
and watch both the mother and the infant die without taking some method of action.
However, if that physician were to save either patient while sacrificing the life of the
other, that health care professional would be considered unethical and scorned by the
standard of this ethical commandment. In comparison, the new commandment states, “Take
responsibility for the consequences of your decisions”(Singer 195). By the token of this
declaration a physician can make a choice based on his/her best judgment, yet; be held
accountable for their actions. This gives a doctor the power to use his/her best judgment
and knowledgeable skills, to do what they believe is best for the patient. This statement
allows for a person’s right to free will, even a person who is a Christian may more fully
agree with this statement just for the pure reason that they want to believe more in God’s
promise of free will in their life.

Commandment number four states,” Be fruitful and multiply” (Singer 198). This biblical
injunction has been a part of Christian ethics for thousands of years. “ Augustine said
that sexual intercourse without procreation ' turns the bridal chamber into a brothel’”
(Singer 198). Some laws in America concerning contraceptives survived until the mid-
1960’s when the Supreme Court declared them invasion of privacy (Madsen 325). The revised
commandment number four, “Bring children into the world only if they are wanted” (Singer
199), allows for population control as well as prevention of children who were never
wanted and not loved. From 1930 when the population was two billion to today where the
population is over five billion and is expected to rise above eleven billion by the middle
of the next century. With these kinds of statistics revised dictates, such as this fourth
one, are essential.

The final of these five old commandments state, “ Treat all human life as always more
precious than any non-human life” (Singer 201). If we compare a severely defective human
infant with a non-human animal, a dog or a pig, for example, we will often find the
non-human to have superior capacities, both actual and potential, for rationality,
self-consciousness, communication, and any other that can plausibly be considered morally
significant” (Singer 201). This remark was made during the Baby Doe controversy of the
Regan administration. However, in Germany an organization called Lebanshilfe, an
organization for parents of intellectually disabled infants has adopted a set of Ethical
Foundational Statements one of which is, “The uniqueness of human life forbids any
comparison - or, more specifically, equation - of human existence with other living
beings, with their forms of life or interests” (Singer 202.) The revised counterpart to
this commandment states, “ Do not discriminate on the basis of species” (Singer 202).
This revised ethic is the one most rejected; it contradicts the fact all human life is of
worth and is more sensitive in most people. This sets forth the same message that a sexist
or racist would hate, because you are not part of my group you are inferior. These ethical
commandments or dictates provide a framework for today’s unstable society.

The American Medical Association has devised a set of codes designed to guide researchers
in their conduct during experimentation. The American Medical Association’s Ethical
Guidelines for Clinical Investigation include:

1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.
2. The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society,
unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random or unnecessary in nature.

3. The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation
and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study that
the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment.

4. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.
5. No experiment should be conducted when there is an a priori reason to believe that
death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the
experimental physicians also serve as subjects.

6. The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian
importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.

7. Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the
experimental subject against even remote responsibilities of injury, disability or death.

8. The experiment should only be conducted by scientifically qualified persons. the
highest degree of skill and care should be required through all stages of the experiment
of those who conduct or engage in the experiment.

9. During the course of the experiment the human subject should be at liberty to bring the
experiment to an end if he has reached the physical or mental state where continuation of
the experiment seems to him to be impossible.

10. During the course of the experiment the scientist in charge must be prepared to
terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probable cause to believe, in the
exercise of good faith, superior skill, and careful judgment required of him, that a
continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the
experimental subject (Levine 171-74)

Such codes form a conceptual framework for the protection of human subjects. However,
these guidelines are very vague for use in actual practice; clearly human experimentation
includes much more than just the technical aspects. It includes mental, physical and
emotional perspectives that can not be covered on a sheet of paper; the purpose of a
structured written set of guidelines is totally to provide a rulebook by which researchers
follow in order to be ethically correct. A researcher gains information through
experimentation and they must have these guidelines (McKenzie 287). An example of how
these guidelines can assist, but not be of complete structure would be the cancer
injections. The Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York is one of the country’s preeminent
cancer centers. During the 1950’s and 1960’s they conducted a series of experiments to
determine if there was a relationship between cancer and the immune system. The
experimental hypothesis was that, “ the immune system of cancer patients is depressed with
respect to that specific disease” (Levine 172). The scientists developed a program to test
the hypothesis; it was to inject malignant cancer cells into human subjects. We do not
know whether the volunteers were really being experimented on under strictly voluntary
conditions or not, but that is the problem with written guidelines, they work on paper,
but not necessarily in life (Levine 173).

Must we experiment on human beings? If so, what human experiment categories are ethically
correct? Human experimentation falls into three divisions, the first of which is, “
Experiments that the researcher carries out on him or herself “ (Weiss 34). A
traditionally excepted example of this was conducted over one-hundred years ago by a
scientist set on disproving the fact germs cause disease, The way he decided to prove his
idea was to swallow a beakerful of cholera germs. However, he had a natural immunity to
cholera; he did not become ill. It was concluded that he had a natural immunity, because
it was later proven that cholera is a very harmful germ and if ingested it will cause a
person to become ill (Weiss 35).

The second category states, “ Experiments carried out on the sick in the belief that the
experiment will help them, or on the healthy in the belief that the experiment will keep
them well” (Weiss 35). The classic procedure that demonstrates this category is the
experiment of the French scientist Lois Pasteur. In 1885, a distraught mother brought her
nine-year old son to Dr. Pasteur. A dog with rabies had bitten the boy, and the mother had
heard that Pasteur had developed a vaccine that prevented rabies in dogs. The mother
begged Dr. Pasteur to administer the vaccine; he was hesitant and then he obeyed the
mother’s wishes and injected the boy, the boy survived the deadly rabid dog bite (Weiss

The third group of ethical experimentation is,” Those conducted on the sick or healthy
with no intention of helping those people directly” (Weiss 36). These tests are conducted
to gain information at a later time. New prescription drugs and new-products fall under
Continues for 8 more pages >>