Exploring top ethical concerns in today’s healthcare

Exploring top ethical concerns in today’s healthcare

In the important and complex field of healthcare, several ethical concerns must be addressed to ensure the well-being of patients, providers, and the general public. As advancements in technology rapidly increase and the need for healthcare services grows worldwide, it is imperative that these ethical matters be addressed.

Healthcare is an essential aspect of our lives, in terms of both our general well-being and in issues of life and death. In working with patients, healthcare professionals may be required to make tough decisions that might significantly impact their patients’ lives.

Ethical concerns in healthcare range from patient autonomy and confidentiality to medical errors and healthcare disparities. Read on to learn more about the ethical dilemmas healthcare professionals may encounter while working in the healthcare sector.

An overview of ethical concerns

Whether protecting patient privacy, providing equitable access to healthcare resources, or balancing patient autonomy with public health, ethical dilemmas often arise in healthcare settings. When considering ethical issues in healthcare, it is important to remember that actions taken not only distinguish between right and wrong, but also may have lasting effects on healthcare in the future.

Policies and guidelines set and upheld by healthcare leaders and practitioners define and enforce ethics. Because ethical considerations in healthcare are so important for everyone involved, the study of ethics is woven into much of the coursework required for advanced healthcare administration programs such as the online MSN FNP program at Texas Woman’s University (TWU).

The online MSN FNP program will strengthen your approach to nursing, resulting in the development of a compassionate, multifaceted professional that treats the whole patient. Gain the knowledge necessary to further your nursing career, while applying advanced skills to improve the health of diverse populations.

Patient privacy and confidentiality

Because healthcare providers have access to sensitive patient information, it is important to protect their right to privacy and ensure that their health information is not shared without consent.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets national standards for protecting the privacy of a patient’s health information. This federal law requires healthcare providers to obtain patients’ written consent before sharing their personal information.

Patients also have the right to access and amend their health records, as well as file complaints if they believe their privacy rights have been violated. There are still some concerns surrounding patient privacy and confidentiality, however, despite the implementation of HIPAA.

The use of electronic health records (EHRs) is an easy way for healthcare providers to access and share patient information. Healthcare providers must take steps to ensure the security and privacy of these electronic records, however, because of the potential for data breaches and unauthorized access.

Informed consent

Informed consent is when a patient is fully informed about their medical condition and treatment options—including the potential risks and benefits—and voluntarily agrees to the proposed treatment plan. This process is essential for protecting the autonomy and decision-making ability of patients.

There are many instances in which obtaining informed consent can be challenging. For example, patients under duress or unable to make informed decisions due to mental illness or cognitive impairments may be unable to provide valid informed consent. In these cases, healthcare providers must determine who can act as a surrogate decision-maker on behalf of the patient.

Another challenging issue is that informed consent is often presented to patients as a form that must be signed before treatment can begin. Patients often feel pressured or coerced into agreeing to treatments they may not fully understand. Healthcare providers must ensure that informed consent is presented as an ongoing conversation rather than a one-time signature.

Informed consent is not always straightforward, particularly in cases that require more certainty about the risks and benefits of a treatment or procedure. Healthcare providers must be transparent with patients about the certainty and evidence behind proposed recommendations or treatments.

If patients participate in research studies, they must be advised of the potential risks and benefits. They may feel pressured to agree due to financial incentives or other factors, so healthcare providers and researchers must ensure that patients are fully informed and their autonomy is respected.

Informed consent is a crucial aspect of ethical healthcare practice. It requires that patients are fully informed about their medical conditions and treatment options and can make voluntary and informed decisions about their care.

End-of-life care

End-of-life care refers to the treatment and support given to individuals approaching the end of their lives. Ethical concerns in healthcare often arise in end-of-life care, and the wishes and values of the patient are important to consider.  Compassion and respect should also be provided to patients and their families.

One ethical issue regarding end-of-life care is withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment. This decision should be based on the patient’s wishes and medical considerations. The ethical principle of autonomy dictates that patients have the right to make decisions about their medical care, including refusing or discontinuing treatment.

Palliative care is another ethical concern in terms of end-of-life care. Palliative care focuses on relieving pain and other symptoms during a serious illness rather than curing the illness itself. Palliative care aims to improve the patient’s quality of life and alleviate suffering. The controversy surrounding palliative care is that while some people may view it as a form of treatment that focuses on the patient’s best interests, others believe it to be “giving up” on the patient.

Assisted dying or euthanasia is another much-debated topic regarding end-of-life care. In some countries, patients can legally request and receive assistance to end their lives. This is a highly controversial topic, however, and there are concerns about the potential for abuse and implications about the value of human life.

Ultimately, end-of-life care is a complex and sensitive subject that requires careful consideration regarding the patient’s wishes, values, and medical needs. Healthcare professionals must navigate a range of ethical concerns in order to provide compassionate care that respects the dignity and autonomy of the patient.

Allocation of scarce resources

Healthcare is expensive and there are some resources that are limited in terms of availability to patients. This means that decisions must be made regarding which patients receive treatment and which do not. The allocation of scarce resources can be complex and emotional, as it involves determining which patients have the greatest need and who will benefit most from the available resources.

Healthcare professionals must be sure that their decisions are based on objective criteria, and they are not discriminating against any particular group or individual. This is especially important when resources are limited, as patients with certain conditions or those from disadvantaged backgrounds may be overlooked.

Treatment decisions should be made after consideration regarding the patient’s best interests and quality of life. For example, a patient with a low chance of survival may be given lower priority than a patient with a greater chance of recovery.

The allocation of scarce resources can also raise issues regarding distributive justice. This involves deciding who is responsible for ensuring that healthcare resources are distributed fairly across different groups of patients. Difficult choices may be required regarding how much should be spent on preventative versus curative care or whether to prioritize expensive treatments with low success rates.

Allocation of scarce resources in healthcare is an issue that is both complex and multifaceted, requiring balance and careful consideration regarding a variety of ethical concerns. Healthcare professionals, policymakers, and society members must reflect and engage in ongoing dialogues to ensure that resources are used both effectively and equitably.

Genetic testing and screening

Genetic advancements have allowed us to test for and identify genetic conditions before they manifest in individuals. While this has been helpful in identifying medical conditions and providing early intervention, several ethical concerns have been raised about genetic testing and screening.

While participating in genetic testing and screening, individuals might not only have their personal genetic information revealed to healthcare professionals, but also that of their entire family.. As such, individuals may feel hesitant or fearful of the implications involved in the sharing of their genetic information, particularly concerning insurance and employment.

Genetic testing and screening can reveal a great deal of information, but it can also be expensive. Healthcare professionals need to ensure that individuals understand what they are agreeing to and the potential outcomes.

Questions are often raised about how to use genetic testing and screening information in healthcare. For example, should individuals be screened for genetic conditions even if they do not display any symptoms of the condition? If a genetic test indicates an increased likelihood of a particular condition, does this mean the individual should undergo more invasive or aggressive preventative measures?

It is important that genetic testing is performed ethically and considers issues of privacy, consent, and appropriate use of the information. By doing so, we can continue to unlock the potential of genetics in healthcare, while also respecting the autonomy and dignity of the individual.

Healthcare worker rights and responsibilities

Professionals working in the healthcare field are not only responsible for the health and well-being of patients but also must ensure that the rights and responsibilities of healthcare workers are upheld. These rights and responsibilities are important for the proper functioning of the healthcare system, as well as to provide a safe and effective care environment for patients and healthcare workers.

One of the key rights of healthcare workers is the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. This includes protection from physical and psychological harm, as well as preventing exposure to infectious diseases. Healthcare workers should have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and training to reduce the risk of exposure to illness or injury.

Just as healthcare workers have rights, they are also responsible for respecting a patient’s rights by providing high-quality care, adhering to ethical standards, and respecting dignity. Healthcare workers must advocate for and support their patients. This includes advocating for the use of evidence-based practices and ensuring patients have access to appropriate resources and services.

In addition, healthcare workers are responsible for maintaining their professional development and staying up to date on new developments and trends in their field. This includes attending continuing education courses, keeping abreast of new research, and maintaining their own mental and physical health.

Medical research and experimentation

Medical research and experimentation are critical in developing new treatments and improving healthcare outcomes. Ethical concerns can arise, however, when patients are involved in clinical trials or experimental procedures. These concerns stem from the need to balance the potential benefits of medical research with the risks and harm it may cause to patients.

Before they consent, patients must be fully informed of the medical research or experiment’s risks, benefits, and potential outcomes.

Ethical concerns may arise when medical research has potential social or political implications. For example, research into the genetic basis of a disease or illness could be used to discriminate against certain individuals or groups.

Addressing ethical concerns to protect the rights and interests of patients is crucial. Ethical guidelines are in place to ensure that medical research is conducted safely and fairly. Continued attention to these concerns is needed to maintain the trust and confidence of patients and the wider public in healthcare research.

Final thoughts

Numerous ethical concerns within the healthcare industry require careful consideration and attention. Issues such as patient privacy and confidentiality, informed consent, and end-of-life care are critical to ensuring that healthcare remains a trusted and safe industry for patients and providers.

The allocation of scarce resources, genetic testing and screening, patient autonomy, decision-making, and healthcare worker rights and responsibilities are also areas in which ethical considerations are crucial.

Addressing these concerns requires a collaborative effort from all stakeholders in the healthcare industry, including policymakers, healthcare providers, patients, and families. By staying informed and actively participating in ethical decision-making, we can work together to create a safer and more ethical healthcare industry for all.


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