Practicing healthcare through a global lens

surgery

(Piron Guillaume, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Jasmine Hui, a third-year medical student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. 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.


Every physician begins their medical education by taking the Hippocratic oath – promising to do no harm and to help patients to the best of their abilities. The standard-of-care physicians strive to deliver is largely based upon the four bioethics principles: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice.

However, the application of such a standard in one’s home country may differ greatly in a foreign country. The importance of realizing social and cultural differences between societies is vital in crafting culturally appropriate care. A good healthcare professional is able to recognize their inherent biases in perceiving “otherness”, and thus, have an ability to align their care with the values of patients in foreign countries.

Improving global health has constantly been on the agenda for developed countries – many health professionals donate their time and effort to treat those in need. However, one could argue that a good healthcare professional is not solely defined on the basis of having altruistic intentions.

When one practices global medicine, they have to become familiar with the culture, beliefs and traditions of recipients – adjusting care which respects their values. Stepping into a foreign culture, there may be practices which are perceived to be inappropriate or “strange” in one’s home country. Nonetheless, a good healthcare professional would approach the scenario with neutrality – free from as much cultural and contextual bias as possible. To realize cultural differences requires critical reflection but would ultimately strengthen trust and understanding between visiting physicians and locals.

A good healthcare professional is able to reflect and question their routine actions. For example, realizing that the purpose of healthcare changes according to one’s patients and access to resources (e.g. infrastructure, surgical tools, drugs, long-term plans). When practicing at home, the goal of healthcare may be to ensure patient autonomy is respected by effective and thorough communication, as well as, providing the best available treatment and drugs to patients.

However, in the context of foreign aid, such goals are subject to other ethical concerns. Who do you choose to help when you don’t have enough medicine? Can we pursue a utilitarian approach of treating the most patients at the expense of delivering a lower standard of care? The outcomes of healthcare can be greatly limited in these countries but are nonetheless, are equally driven by the principle of non-maleficence.

There are great challenges when practicing healthcare in a global setting. Is it ever enough to just provide the bare minimum for people to survive? The struggle to strike a balance between optimism and pragmatism poses a challenge. Nonetheless, a good healthcare professional who aims to deliver the best care would be considerate of culture, be self-aware and ethically reflective. To effectively tackle these moral issues would be a direct response to treating humanity in medicine.

About the author

Jasmine Hui is a third-year medical student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is part of the Asian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) Hong Kong and is interested in
bioethics, public health and medical law.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

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

EU supports recovery and resilience in Nigeria with additional €50 million

It’s time to switch to a four-day working week, say these two Davos experts

European Citizens’ Initiative: A game of much publicity and one big lie

Corruption undermines democracy and contributes to instability, warns senior UN anti-crime official

Brexit negotiations: back to square one, tougher words, no good faith

Barcelona’s ‘superblocks’ could save lives and cut pollution, says report

G20 LIVE: “Our response needs to be robust…otherwise we will only find the fire we are trying to put out”, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just lit up G20 in Antalya Turkey

UN spotlights wellbeing of seafarers on International Day

The digital skills gap is widening fast. Here’s how to bridge it

Easing fears and promoting gender equality in Chad’s girls-only classrooms

Brexit: new European Parliament reaffirms wholehearted support for EU position

Trump’s self-centered politics unravels

Resilience and efficient doctor-patient relationship nowadays

Millions of young people need better job skills. Here’s how businesses can help

UN Security Council calls for South Sudan leaders to speed up action on peace deal

The Parliament accuses core EU countries of exploiting their dominant political position

Roaming market review: use of mobile phones abroad has surged since end of EU roaming charges

“Private” sea freight indexes hide Libor like skeletons?

Why we need both science and humanities for a Fourth Industrial Revolution education

Brussels to tear down the trade wall with Mexico as opposed to Trump’s “walls”

CO2 emissions on the rise for first time in four years, UN agency warns

FROM THE FIELD: Saving the tree kangaroos of Papua New Guinea

How tomorrow’s buildings will make you – and the planet – healthier

Migration crisis will keep deteriorating as common EU political will is simply not there

Strengthen inclusion, participation of people with autism to ‘achieve their full potential’ says UN chief

Protecting European consumers: toys and cars on top of the list of dangerous products

Commission makes it easier for citizens to access health data securely across borders

Moratorium call on surveillance technology to end ‘free-for-all’ abuses: UN expert

COP21 Breaking News: China has promised to cut emissions from its coal power plants by 60% by 2020

Yellen and Draghi tell Trump and markets not to expedite the next crisis

Chatterbox Rome Declaration cannot save the EU; Germany has to pay more to do that

Our poisonous air is harming our children’s brains

A Sting Exclusive: “Technology for all, development for all: the role of ITU”, written by the Secretary General of the United Nations Agency

Five ways to increase trust in e-commerce

UN chief praises Malaysia’s death penalty repeal as ‘major step forward’

The needs, challenges and power dynamics of refugee resettlement

Over 1 million health consultations provided in Yemen in 2019: UN migration agency

A Year in China

Why today’s leaders need to know about the power of narratives

EU Justice Scoreboard 2018: justice systems’ key role in upholding the rule of law and EU values

Privatization of the health sector and the right to receive treatment

World Television Day celebrates an integral part of modern life

‘Severe’ new US asylum restrictions will put vulnerable families at risk, UN refugee agency says

5 ways you can protect insects if you live in a city

7 key challenges for the future of ASEAN – and how to solve them

South Africa’s cabinet is now 50% women for the first time ever

UN ‘stands in solidarity’ with cyclone-hit India – Secretary-General Guterres

Sudan: Health challenges in the Sustainable Development Goals era

Gender Equality as a platform to improve Medicine

EU Youth Goals – we are shapers not listeners

Out with the old: Young People transforming Humanitarian Action

Former Chilean President Bachelet put forward by UN chief as next High Commissioner for Human Rights

Service and Sacrifice: For Ghana, UN peacekeeping is a ‘noble opportunity to serve humanity’

International Women’s Day 2019: women’s power in politics

6 surprising side effects of this year’s global heatwave

Across the world, women outlive men. This is why

UN chief reaffirms commitment to untying ‘Gordian knot’ of Middle East conflict and instability

Reforms in Latvia must result in stronger enforcement to tackle foreign bribery and subsequent money laundering risks

Afghanistan: UN mission condemns deadly attack near Kabul airport

Good grub: why we might be eating insects soon

More Stings?

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