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Ethical challenges in the humanisation of medicine: Moral dilemmas in contemporary medical practice

23 October 2023

Modern medicine is developing at a pace unmatched in the past, which brings with it numerous benefits, but also ethical challenges. What moral dilemmas arise in modern medical practice and how do we deal with them?

Euthanasia: Can life be shortened on request?

Euthanasia is one of the most controversial issues in the field of medicine and ethics. It represents a moral dilemma that stirs emotions and divides society and the medical community into supporters and opponents.

One of the key aspects of the euthanasia debate is the question of whether a doctor should have the right to assist a patient in ending their life, especially in cases of incurable illness and ongoing suffering. Proponents of euthanasia argue that such a step can be an act of mercy, allowing the patient to pass away in dignity, minimise suffering and avoid prolonged agony. Opponents of euthanasia, on the other hand, argue that life is inviolable and only God or nature should decide on its termination.

The moral dilemmas surrounding euthanasia raise questions about the value of human life and patient autonomy. Does the individual have the right to decide his or her own fate and to choose death if his or her suffering is intolerable? This question is hotly debated in many countries that are attempting to regulate euthanasia within the law.

It is worth noting that the issue of euthanasia is not clear-cut and has many shades. There are different forms of euthanasia, such as active euthanasia (active participation of the physician in shortening the life of the patient) and passive euthanasia (refusal to sustain life while preserving natural processes). Furthermore, the concept of euthanasia opens up a discussion about pain control, palliative care and psychological support for patients.

Patient autonomy and the treatment of children

Another important ethical issue is the conflict between patient autonomy and the need to protect the interests of children. This is a difficult challenge that provokes reflection on the limits of individual freedom of decision and the duty of care for younger members of society.

Considerations of patient autonomy in the context of treating children become particularly challenging when parents or carers wish to make decisions that do not necessarily serve the best interests of the child. Examples of such situations are varied, and each raises serious ethical questions.

One controversial topic is the question of alternative therapies. Do parents have the right to choose unconventional treatments for their child, even if scientific evidence shows that traditional medicine is effective? This question is not only about patient autonomy, but also about parents' responsibility for their child's health and life.

Another example is the refusal of a blood transfusion on the basis of religious beliefs. Religious beliefs can interfere with the need for a life-saving medical intervention. Here, the parents' rights to profess their own beliefs collide with their duty to provide their child with medical care that may save his or her life.

Decisions in such situations are often controversial and give rise to emotional social debates and legal disputes. There is a need to strike a balance between respecting the autonomy of parents and protecting the interests of children. This is a task that poses unique challenges for doctors and lawyers, striving to reach the best solution in each individual situation.

Ethical considerations in this area are complex and have no clear-cut answers. An approach based on dialogue and the search for compromises that protect both patient autonomy and child welfare is key. However, one thing is certain: the conflict between autonomy and child protection will remain a topic of discussion and research for many years to come.

Physician's responsibility

Doctors and medical staff are a professional group that stands at the heart of healthcare. However, along with the unique opportunities to help patients, there are also unique ethical challenges. A doctor's responsibility is not only to perform medical procedures, but also to maintain the highest ethical standards. How do we ensure that doctors maintain these standards and act in accordance with the interests of the patient?

Doctors are bound by medical confidentiality, which means that they cannot disclose patients' medical information without their consent. This is an important issue as it builds trust between doctor and patient. However, sometimes situations arise where doctors have to make difficult decisions, such as when domestic violence is suspected or a patient's life is at risk.

Conflict of interest is another ethical dilemma that doctors often face. Doctors should always act in the best interests of the patient, but sometimes situations can arise where financial or personal interests can influence medical decisions. Therefore, it is important that guidelines and regulations are in place to help doctors maintain integrity and transparency in their work.

Clinical trials are a key part of medical development, but they also present ethical challenges. Patients participating in clinical trials need to be aware of the risks and benefits of taking part, and be assured that their rights and safety are protected. Doctors conducting trials have a duty to act according to the highest ethical standards and to provide adequate support to trial participants.