Bioethics refers to controversial ethics that arise as a result of advances made in medicine and biology. It is a study that deals with ethical questions that come about in the relationships among biotechnology, medicine, life sciences, philosophy, politics, and law (Andre, 4-6). Medicine and biology are sciences that deal with animals or living things in general, which means that they both can raise ethical values issues and other scientific problems. In dealing with bioethics, there is a need for a disciplined and systematic reflection on the complex issues that usually arise.
While scientists are capable of altering and developing the genetic information in bacteria and other animal species, the question remains: Should they be allowed to do so? As many medicinal miracles happen, citizens continue to claim patients’ rights. They want to possess information about medical procedures they would undergo, as well as have a say in the allocation of health resources. All these questions and their answers are issues dealing with bioethics.
Systematic ethical thinking regarding these questions arise from various sources including philosophical thought, secular thought, religious traditions, and medical professions. However, it is important to note that professional codes in medicine only affect members of a certain professional group. Those who are outside the medicine profession do not have to agree with them. For example, most of the dominant religious groups have always had their own stances on many critical bioethical issues.
Bioethics seeks to humanize health services, as well as promote the rights of patients. Decisions concerning bioethics made every day depend on different situations, for example, dealing with relationships between physicians and their patients, the difficult questions touching the human life, use of humans as subjects in biomedical experiments, allocating the rare resources, and the behavior of clinical medicine, as well as sciences research. Ethicists in this field work as advisers to healthcare institutions at different levels. Moreover, they can work as advisers to government legislatures in coming up with laws that deal with the decision of ending life support, suicide committed under physician watch, as well as using genetic testing.
Bioethicists play different roles in the field of medicine and biology. Despite the roots of bioethics lying in philosophy, bioethics nowadays demands that there exist a collaboration among the many studies including medicine, genetics, biology, pharmaceuticals, public health, stem cell research, law, environmental toxicology, biotechnology, business, sociology, and politics. Bioethical dilemmas are now more common than ever before because of the recent advances in medical technologies, which have outpaced the abilities of those in the field of medicine. Such a case includes the one tackled by Rebecca Skloot in her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
The role played by bioethicists has increased over the years as a result of knowledge exploding in the fields of biotechnology and genetics. Ethical decisions are important for issues touching on genetic engineering, fetal issues, and cloning. As the fields of bioengineering, biomedical, and biotechnology increases, research has also increased the need for the society to deal with the recent challenging ethical issues that come up every time. Bioethics deals with pinpointing rising moral issues that relate to biological systems and health, as well as analyzing them in line with principles that are dictated by the value system of a community. While these principles do not focus on one moral course of action, they offer a means of evaluating or deciding from the many existing options.
Making decisions in bioethics happens when a person or a group faces a biomedical dilemma, which requires debate. More often than not, there exist positive and negative implications of each of the possible outcomes. So, in the process of reaching these decisions, bioethicists have to consider a number of paradigms including individual vs. community, short-term vs. long-term, and justice vs. mercy (McGee, 16). In dealing with individual vs. community, the needs or interest of a person are measured against the needs or the interest of the whole community. In justice vs. medicine, the necessity for revealing appropriate justice is measured against the necessity to reveal appropriate mercy.
The entire paradigm symbolizes a distinctive competition between different competing values. Methods used in the making of these decisions fall into three categories: ends-based, rule-based, and care-based. The ends-based reasoning bases itself on the notion of “the greatest good for the greatest number.” The rule-based reasoning, on the other hand, follows the rules that guide the community as a whole. Lastly, the guiding principle under the care-based reasoning is the concern for others for a moral outcome.
Notably, recent advances in biotechnology have outpaced the ability of the society to absorb the impacts of the new technologies. There are many issues that currently face us including stem cell research, cloning, prenatal recognition of genetic orders, and in vitro fertilization. There is no doubt that the advances made in biotechnology permanently affect our lives. Our politics, spirituality, and culture will be affected in the long run. These advances call for remarkable engagement in issues dealing with bioethics, which will also touch on all members of the community.
In ethical decision-making, there is a need for people to study the advantages and disadvantages of a situation that arises from a number of perspectives. Notably, there is no answer that is right or wrong. It is important to note that most issues in biotechnology have the ability to challenge beliefs or traditions that are deeply held. A number of ethical issues often come with risk. The benefits or risk usually affect individuals, as well as ecosystems. These issues can challenge our views and beliefs concerning the value of organists or the path we choose when deciding to have children or families.
Throughout the 21st century, advances in cloning technology or human brain will continue to affect the society. Population changes will also affect the field of medicine and raise a number of issues that involve medical ethics. While there may be advances made in technology, new questions continue to emerge, for example, “What are the odds?”, “What can happen?”, and “How do scientists know what will happen next?”
Other ethical issues stem from relationships between patients and their clinicians, including issues touching on respect for autonomy, confidentiality, and informed consent. Others stem from professional relations, such as fee splitting, advertising, and reporting practitioners that are incompetent or referring patients from a physician to the other.
Biological or medical ethics tackle issues that reach far beyond the individual physician-patient relationship. Recently, issues have emerged that affect the ethics of allocation of health resource, as well as health policy. Health planners have to make decisions regarding the right an individual can have towards health care. The main problem in health-planning deals with balancing the professional use of resources against equitable distribution.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot reveals a good example of biomedical ethics. A doctor cut two samples of tissue from Henrietta Lacks without her consent (Rebecca 12). Long after Lacks’ death, her tissues have become instrumental in scientific and medical research. Millions of cash have gone round; however, Lacks and her family have not benefitted from the whole perspective. Her children have languished in poverty and even lacked health insurance, despite their mother’s cells becoming “immortal”. The story raises issues dealing with bioethics; who should be the real ones to benefit from the medical breakthrough and research. Her family cannot afford to take care of themselves, despite the tissues from her mother helping the whole world and scientists in medicinal research.
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