Health ethics is a system of moral principles that apply values to the practice of clinical medicine and in scientific research. Medical ethics is based on a set of values that professionals can refer to in the case of any confusion or conflict. These values include the respect for autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, and justice. Such tenets may allow doctors, care providers, and families to create a treatment plan and work towards the same common goal. It is important to note that these four values are not ranked in order of importance or relevance and that they all encompass values pertaining to medical ethics. However, a conflict may arise leading to the need for hierarchy in an ethical system, such that some moral elements overrule others with the purpose of applying the best moral judgement to a difficult medical situation.
There are several codes of conduct. The Hippocratic Oath discusses basic principles for medical professionals. This document dates back to the fifth century BCE. Both The Declaration of Helsinki (1964) and The Nuremberg Code (1947) are two well-known and well respected documents contributing to medical ethics. Other important markings in the history of Medical Ethics include Roe v. Wade in 1973 and the development of Hemodialysis in the 1960s. More recently, new techniques for gene editing aiming at treating, preventing and curing diseases utilizing gene editing, are raising important moral questions about their applications in medicine and treatments as well as societal impacts on future generations.
As this field continues to develop and change throughout history, the focus remains on fair, balanced, and moral thinking across all cultural and religious backgrounds around the world. Medical ethics encompasses a practical application in clinical settings as well as scholarly work on its history, philosophy, and sociology.
Medical ethics encompasses beneficence, autonomy, and justice as they relate to conflicts such as euthanasia, patient confidentiality, informed consent, and conflicts of interest in healthcare. In addition, medical ethics and culture are interconnected as different cultures implement ethical values differently, sometimes placing more emphasis on family values and downplaying the importance of autonomy. This leads to an increasing need for culturally sensitive physicians and ethical committees in hospitals and other healthcare settings.
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Journal of Clinical Research and Bioethics
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