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    Five Top Ethical Issues in Healthcare

    By NCVC Staff | Published on Sep 19, 2023

    In a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, leaders face a multitude of ethical challenges. These issues not only impact hospital administrators and clinical leaders, but they also have a profound effect on the quality of care provided to patients. To shed light on these pressing matters, Healthcare Briefings consulted a panel of experts who shared their perspectives on the top ethical issues facing healthcare leaders today.

    Balancing Care Quality and Efficiency

    One of the most critical challenges the healthcare system faces is finding the delicate balance between care quality and efficiency. According to Cynda Hylton Rushton, a prominent professor of clinical ethics at Johns Hopkins University, this challenge raises questions about the values driving our healthcare system. Should we prioritize efficiency over the well-being and safety of patients?

    Improving Access to Care

    The lack of universal access to basic medical care remains a significant ethical issue in healthcare. Leading the charge against this problem is Philip Rosoff, the director of clinical ethics for Duke Hospital and Duke University School of Medicine. Rosoff passionately argues that the denial of access to care is a shameful reality that overshadows all other concerns. Access to basic care is an essential aspect of a civilized society, and until everyone can receive proper medical attention, this issue demands attention and resolution.

    Building and Sustaining the Healthcare Workforce of the Future

    As the baby boomer generation ages, the demand for healthcare professionals to care for this population continues to grow. However, there are concerns about whether there will be enough competent and compassionate individuals to meet these needs. The nursing profession, in particular, faces a resurgence of the nursing shortage in the coming years. Maintaining a sustainable healthcare workforce is not just a supply issue; it is an ethical imperative. The practice environment must support healthcare professionals in practicing with integrity and free them from constant moral distress.

    Addressing End-of-Life Issues

    With the aging population, end-of-life issues are becoming increasingly important. The decision-making process and financing of end-of-life care are topics that require careful consideration as more people face these challenges. The Hastings Center, a renowned research institution, recently published updated guidelines on end-of-life decision-making and care. These guidelines aim to equip providers with the resources they need to have better conversations with patients, their families, and each other.

    Allocating Limited Medications and Donor Organs

    The scarcity of critical medications and organs presents ethical dilemmas in healthcare. Medication shortages often occur due to economic incentives in the system. Generic intravenous medications, for instance, are frequently in short supply because they offer limited profit margins. Addressing these perverse incentives is crucial to ensuring an adequate supply of medications in the future. Similarly, the ongoing shortage of donor organs poses a significant challenge. More research and increased organ donations are essential to meet the growing demand.

    While these five issues take center stage, the ethical landscape in healthcare continues to evolve. Concerns about healthcare technology’s impact on communication policies, medical records, and patient privacy are also gaining importance. Nevertheless, experts, like Philip Rosoff, firmly believe that access to care remains the most critical ethical issue at present. Fixing this issue is imperative to ensure the well-being and health of all individuals.

    In conclusion, healthcare leaders must grapple with a range of ethical challenges that impact the quality of care and access to services. By addressing these issues head-on, the healthcare industry can strive to build an ethical and compassionate system that meets the needs of patients and healthcare professionals alike.

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