On technology and medical ethics


(Dominik Scythe, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Daniel Andrés Sierra García, a 22 years old, 5th year Medical Student from Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

All human activity has an ethical background. There’s a social force that affects each individual action, similar to the force of gravity that it’s impossible to escape of. Good and evil are two opposite poles within whose polarizations develops human behavior and ethics.

But, what’s the purpose of ethics? Essentially, the common good. But the interpretation of what is good for each and every human being is in constant change and even controversy.

Health is the most precious asset of the individual. For physicians, who have vowed to preserve life at all costs, for whom the Deontological Code issues the moral standards that are required to meet by each doctor; life is priority in daily practice.

But medical practice confronts professionals to ethical dilemmas; many conflicting decisions force physicians to choose a path that respects the patient’s hopes and wishes, searching for the best for patient’s health.

Ethical issues are continuously presented in medical practice, especially in relation  diagnosis and therapeutic technological advances. Technology in the medical practice has been an amazing benefit for health care, mainly in diagnostic and treatment methods.

However, as these changes became progressively fast and overwhelming, new dilemmas began to emerge that challenged several of the ethical principles of medical profession and influenced its practice.

Many ethical aspects surround technology usage in medical practice: is the use of a new technology justified according to its price, quality and efficiency? Is there sufficiently trained staff for its proper use?

Does the new technique overcome those that are already in use and have economic advantages? Is the patient’s quality of life improved? Can it be used by the general population or will it be reserved for a privileged few?

The German philosopher Hans Jonas stated: “…technology is an exercise of human power, that is, a form of action, and all human actions are answerable to moral scrutiny.” This concept let us reflect on the use of technology on medical practice; to evaluate if the contemporary practice of medicine is respecting the ethical principles that govern the medical practice and if it is aware of the power of technology.

These reflections open the door to elucidate why physicians have been slipping more and more towards science, in deterioration of the art that is the side of medical practice that embraces humanism and allows physicians to come closer as human beings to another human being.

The inclination of medicine towards scientific and technological aspect represents a risk of leaving aside the altruism, own and essential attitude of the medical practice, that without doubt must be the base of the actions that leads physicians in the patient approach.

Hence, ethics education in the medical field must be oriented to produce physicians who know how to use technology discriminately. The appropriate clinical knowledge, intuition and other attributes, together with help, understanding, consolation…, supported by listening and speaking with patients, lead physicians to understand them. That is the language of the science and the art of medicine.

About the author

Daniel Andrés Sierra García is a 22 years old, 5th year Medical Student from Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. President of IFMSA Guatemala. He stands for human rights in healthcare and actively promotes cultural competence in Guatemala’s society.

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