The ethical dilemmas of medicine

Medicine Belgium.jpg

(Piron Guillaume, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Dr. Unsa Athar graduated from King Edward Medical University, Lahore in 2018. She 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.


A few years ago, I used to believe that morality is subjective. Every individual must decide for himself or herself what is right or wrong. But turns out, as you grow and mature, you also realize the fault in your previous point of views. There is some absolute right and absolute wrong in this world.

There has to be a yardstick with which our actions are compared. This is the very reason ‘Ethics’ is a subject tested heavily on licensing examinations for doctors.  Questions are asked which do have a right answer!

This brings us to the one of the most complicated issues health-care providers have to face. Ethics. Morality. What is the ethical way to making a health-care decision? Is this treatment or approach ethical?

Does empathy conform to the rules of ethics? These were some practical questions that came to my mind while working as a junior doctor. In the new technological age of medicine, ethical discussions need to be given more importance than ever. Specially belonging to a developing country, where the resources are scarce and sickness in abundance, how do I make decisions that are best not only for my patients but also every patient visiting the hospital? Was I prepared for the practical ethical dilemmas during my medical school?

No, sir. I had one strip and two patients that needed their glucose levels checked. One a child of 11 years and the other a man aged 45, also a father of two. Which one do I prioritize?

While working in the clinical field, dilemmas like these are solved by a judgement call based purely on a clinician’s reflex. And these reflexes have to be inculcated in them during their medical school training. From the very beginning, along with memorizing the names of all the muscles in the body, students should also be exposed to the raw human emotions a doctor has to deal with on a daily basis.

A beloved professor of mine used to take his students with him to the ward rounds. After the round, in the class, instead of discussing the diseases and the treatments, he used to discuss the flaws that the students witnessed in terms of empathy and morality.

For students like me who always had this notion that being ethical meant being empathic, life soon became hell in the hospital corridors. I showed empathy towards each and every patient, confusing it with ethics, which led to the destruction of my own mental health. And what I learnt was that I indeed had to cram treatment guidelines and read recent research articles.

But I also had to ask, search and find for myself and my peers the right solution to a problem that cannot be solved by medicine. In conclusion, the need of the hour is to incorporate teaching and testing all kinds of ethical scenarios right from pre-clinical years to ensure that students make the right ethical choice at the time of need just as reflexively as they started performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a patient with no pulse.

About the author

Dr. Unsa Athar graduated from King Edward Medical University, Lahore in 2018.  She has worked as an intern for a year. She loves using various platforms to express her opinions through the written word. She often writes for US-Magazine, The News International. She believes that by dialogue and discussion, we can bring about the much-needed change in our health-care systems. Along with pursuing her post-graduation goals, she is also keen in using advocacy to make doctors’ life better all over the world.

 

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Why the world needs systems leadership, not selfish leadership

Mobile World Congress 2015 first to debate EU’s new stance on Net Neutrality and Roaming Charges

An alternative view of Globalization 4.0, and how to get there

MEPs react to breaches of human rights in Moldova, Burundi and Somalia

Imaginary Journeys Into Eternal China

UN relief chief urges Security Council to back aid delivery, more funding for millions of Syrians hit by harsh weather

High-technology manufacturing saves the EU industry

The Americans are preparing for the next financial crisis

From farms to supermarkets: MEPs approve new EU rules against unfair trading

Essential services on verge of shutdown in Gaza as emergency fuel set to run out

UN chief urges India and Pakistan to dial down tensions in wake of Kashmir attack

Why a global recession isn’t inevitable

IMF cuts global growth outlook, but predicts pick up later in 2019

Mergers: Commission clears Telia’s acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting, subject to conditions

Tackling obesity would boost economic and social well-being

A woman would have to be born in the year 2255 to get equal pay at work

These are the UK’s biggest trading partners

Connectivity and collaboration in the ICT industry: the key to socio-economic development

Why precision medicine won’t transform healthcare – but governance could

Avocado: the ‘green gold’ causing environment havoc

OECD presents analysis showing significant impact of proposed international tax reforms

‘Millions facing starvation’ – Global political and business leaders on the economic impact of COVID-19

Technology can help us save the planet. But more than anything, we must learn to value nature

Is it just visa-free travel that Erdogan demands from the EU to not break the migration deal?

Scores of Rohingya refugee shelters in Bangladesh destroyed by flooding

Africa must become more resilient to climate risk. Here’s how

Why law enforcement and businesses need to join forces to fight global cybercrime

Pharmaceuticals: Commission refines intellectual property rules

European Semester Autumn Package: Bolstering inclusive and sustainable growth

EU Parliament says ‘no’ to austerity budget

Giving humanitarian help to migrants should not be a crime, say MEPs

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Bicycles for the environment, new leader for the UN General Assembly, UN values, Ebola, Syria and Libya

Parliament and Council agree drastic cuts to plastic pollution of environment

Youth and children in Europe set the new perspectives for the decades to come

Ebola Outbreak in Democratic Republic Congo is ‘largely contained’: WHO

Questions and Answers on issues about the digital copyright directive

To meet development goals, UN agriculture agency ‘cannot only focus on tackling hunger anymore’

Tsipras doesn’t seem to have learned his “almost Grexit” lesson and Greece faces again financial and political dead end

One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds: new UN health agency report

Peru is building a new international airport near Machu Picchu – and archaeologists are worried

What can the private sector do to alleviate the refugee crisis?

EU Elections: new rules to prevent breaches of data used to influence elections

Importance of teaching ethics in Brazilian Medical Schools

World Food Day: here’s what the UN is doing to fix ‘intolerable’ wrong of hunger

A common fight against Antimicrobial Resistance: how can we react and what should we do

UN welcomes ‘record’ Brussels conference pledge of nearly $7 billion to support Syrians

Anti-vaccination scaremongering: What should we know about anti-vaccine argument?

The EU invites the US and Russia to partition Ukraine

Can Kiev make face to mounting economic problems and social unrest?

Why Trump’s tariffs are good news for US garlic farmers

Stop violence against women: Statement by the European Commission and the High Representative

SoftLayer, an IBM company, @ TheNextWeb 2014: Masters of Failure and Change

Armed insurgency in north-east Nigeria ‘has created a humanitarian tragedy’

‘Exercise restraint’ Guterres urges Sri Lankans, as political crisis deepens

ECB’s €1.14 trillion again unifies Eurozone; Germany approves sovereign debt risks to be pooled

WHO reports ‘very strong progress’ in battling DR Congo Ebola outbreak

Uncovered liabilities of €5 billion may render EU insolvent

EU trade agreements: delivering new opportunities in time of global economic uncertainties

China and China-EU Relations in the New Era

Young students envision turning Europe into an Entrepreneurial Society

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s