Like any other business organization, the medical sector has a system of ethics which refers to moral principles that determine principles and rulings regarding the practice of medicine. Medical ethics as a scholarly discipline involves practical applications of the clinical atmosphere as well as application of the principles of philosophy, sociology and theology. This follows that fact that it is important to do right by the superior being, by the established societal morals and what is individually right. For this reason, persons seeking medical assistance (patients) have a right to enjoy their personal freedom while at the same time medical practitioners need to implement medical decisions they deem right (Drane, 153). This paper seeks to answer several medical ethics questions; should patients be allowed to decide for themselves in regard to medical treatment? Is it right for doctors to intervene in some patient decisions? Does intervention always have to be paternalistic and finally if both patients and doctors are fallible, who should decide? The answers to these questions are in favor of the doctor since most patients have not studied medicine and will base their decision on hear say and even if the patient is a doctor seeking medical treatment, in most cases he or she will not be suffering from a disease that he or she has studied since it is only right that if it is his area of profession, most probably he or she will be aware of how to prevent himself from the same. Furthermore, there is a notable inconsistency between the health care reform laws and the ethics of medical practice that trigger violations between patient and doctor rights.
In medical practice, it is unethical to force a patient to engage in an activity that is against his or her will. However, this paper strongly disagrees with the proposed argument based on the fact that most patients do not understand the nature of their illness and the consequence of the decision that he or she decides to make with the exception of a small number of patients most of which have some background information on medical practice. In respect to trying to avoid forcing patients to adhere to the doctor’s advice, the argument is directed toward trying to convince patients to heed doctor advice sine in most case it is for their own benefit (Raad, par. 3). This leads to the best alternative of the question whether doctors should intervene in some patient decisions.
Indeed doctors should intervene in some patient decision since they are better placed to offer advice that will ensure a patient’s full recovery. However, the doctor’s interventions should not always be paternalistic as influenced by developed health care reforms. The recent health care reform law seems to ignore the ethical aspect the medical practice since it is no longer a violation to force individuals to purchase health insurance policies. Though it is difficult to understand how personal responsibility should be concurrent with the level of independence it is possible to find an avenue through which a patient can consume certain medication for his own benefit as opposed to personal right to select another. First, it is the respect for individual independence that should be weighed against other medical principles following the fact that personal responsibility should not go against individual independence (Drane, 151). Those supporting the former must provide justification for their violation. Furthermore, in medical practice there is almost no mention of patient independence regarding what form of treatment a patient should or should not receive. Secondly, a patient who refuses treatment offered by the doctor is only hurting himself as opposed to one who does not purchase medical insurance and uses the emergency room since he is imposing medical costs on other persons. This then implies that if constitutional constraints such as forceful medical insurance are leading to considerable violations of medical ethics, then conscientious medical practitioners should propose alternatives to the same.
In response to Gawande’s question of who is charged with the decision making responsibility if both the doctor and patient fallible this discussion proposes that the doctor is better placed than the patient (Jesus, 31). It is for this reason that a patient will visit the doctor in the first place to find out what is wrong with his body therefore rendering him unwell. Furthermore, even if a patient has an alternative solution, he has to discuss it with the doctor first so as to get approval whether his suggestion will contribute to his well being or not.
Critics base their argument on the ethical aspect of the question suggesting that it is unethical to make it an obligation for a patient to do something against his or her will. In addition, patients should be allowed to accept or refuse what doctors propose basing their argument on their individual well being as long as they understand the consequences of decisions they make. Supporting literature by Raad (par. 4) indicates there are a few articles that elaborate on the ethics of an individual mandate and the few that exist classify it as constitutional right an option that does not answer the proposed question.
Despite the disagreement to allow patients to decide on their own in regard to medical treatment, persons advocating for human rights would advocate for the same even if the decision made by the doctor was for the patients benefit. On the other hand, when it comes to the need to have health insurance, the choice does not look optional as every patient is required to have one so as to be on the safe side when it comes to acquiring medical treatment. The final word rests with the doctors in all circumstances as they have a background on medical knowledge. Despite the desire to uphold patient’s interest in making decisions, the fact relies that if they knew what to do; they would not seek medical treatment in the first place.
Drane, James F. Clinical Bioethics: Theory and Practice in Medical Ethical Decision-Making. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1994. Print.
Jesus, John. Ethical Problems in Emergency Medicine: A Discussion-Based Review. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Internet resource.
Raad, Raymond. Ethics of the Individual Mandate. February 2, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/02/ethics-individual-mandate.html on 17/10/2013.