Morality is concerned with what people believe to be right and good conduct. It is transmitted from generation to generation, evolving and being reinterpreted for each age. This broad understanding of what is right and wrong in human conduct is taught to us by our families, religion, national culture, and legal structure.
Ethics is that part of philosophy that deals with systematic approaches to questions of morality. It provides the intellectual framework that allows us to analyze and make decisions in regard to moral choices. In no area of our lives are we more pressed by value-laden decisions than that of health care. The enormous power gained by our scientific successes raises questions that have never previously been posed, such as
- Should the elderly be provided the same level of healthcare as that provided for children?
- Should patients with “Do Not Resuscitate” orders be treated in intensive care unit?
- Must a healthcare provider who is HIV positive relate this to patients?
- Who should live when not all can live?
- Is there a morality to mercy killing?
- Can healthcare practitioners work for the patient and be socially responsible for cost containment at the same time?
- What constitutes life? What is a person?
- Is there a right to health care? If there is a right, what is the limit of that right?
- Is there a moral difference between removing a ventilator from a patient, and removing IV tubes and nasal gastric tube?
- What is the meaning of confidentiality when, on the average, over seventy-five different individuals have access to information from our medical records?
- Who shall be denied lifesaving treatment when there is not enough for all?
The increased used of high technology, the breakthroughs in scientific research, the adoption of team medicine, and the easy access to data have rapidly brought major changes to the delivery of health care and have created a host of new moral dilemmas for which there are no easy solutions.