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Medical Technology and Human Rights, Application Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1206

Application Essay

Introduction

This paper examines the subject of medical technology and how this impacts human rights.  As we move rapidly into the 21st Century the rate of technology is developing at an accelerated pace and very little though is being given as to how this will be rolled out and the implication to society.  Medical technology impacts the human body and may directly involve both human rights and personal legal considerations.  At this rapid pace of technology we face a potential grave threat to human rights as virtually every aspect of our lives becomes dominated by technology.  Can we adapt or will we end up as servants to the technology?

Coping With Change

Doctors within the medical profession are governed by the Hippocratic Oath which briefly translated means that the Doctors should use their skills for healing and not for purposes of self-interest where they might do harm.  This rudimentary ethical code of philosophy has stood for a considerable time but now we are faced with an explosion of technological advances in medical science and as such it questions whether we now need a far more comprehensive set of moral and ethical standards. (Weeramantry, C.G. 1993).

New Computer based electronic health care record systems will contain a vast amount of confidential patient data. Such data will need to be maintained in a highly secure environment free from data penetration and hacking.  Equally, it imposes the question of data integrity and reliability of information being held in the system. Erroneous data may have serious consequences in the medical decision making process.

One ethical dilemma that impacts both human rights and medical ethics is the subject of voluntary euthanasia. Given technical advances we have the technology to terminate a patient’s life who is suffering from a terminal illness.  This can be accomplished with little or no discomfort to the patient. Modern drugs can cause a pain free death or release.  This concept of assisted suicide runs against the very medical ethics of saving lives.  Certain religions forbid the taking of human life regardless of the circumstances where other schools of thought dictate that it is your own life to do with as you see fit.

Positive Impact on Human Rights

Technology will have a number of positive impacts on human rights within the medical arena.  For example technology will provide new and innovative ways to tackle problems that are causing premature deaths throughout the world i.e. advances in research technology in fields like Cancer research, HIV/AIDS and Maleria to name but a few.  Over time technology will have a profound impact on eliminating these disease.  Biological and molecular technology will see further advances in items like Stem Cell research and use of robotic devices that will provide new and innovative ways of treating diseases.

The use of modern computer, communications and video technology has helped the world to grasp human rights violations throughout the world.  Countries can no longer hide their atrocities and violations. We have witnessed the brutal disfigurement of women in Pakistan and Doctors being killed for speaking out against this.  The recruitment of child soldiers in Africa and the work of organizations like Doctors without Borders who travel to dangerous parts of the world to bring medicine and aid that would otherwise be denied. The horrors of the refugee camps in Kenya and Sudan. (Jorasch, G.K. 2009).

Negative Impacts on Human Rights

Modern technology in the medical arena is often viewed as a treatment or cure for human ailments. Unfortunately, the negative aspect of the technology rarely gets visited with the public and in particular with the prescribed use of drugs.  We rely on our physicians to advise us on drug suitability and this is often based upon their research from clinical trial reports and reports from the pharmacy companies. However, we don`t always get this right and there are the problems of side effects, contributory factors that may promote other types of illness and the potential future injury to your health.

We have become so reliant upon the technology and the modern medicine that we leave our fate in the hands of experts without considering all the implications of treatment.  One example is that of the pacemaker and an implant that may put a patient’s life at risk by proximity to microwave ovens,  wireless devices and cellular phones. Hence the technology places lifestyle restrictions on the patient  and the need to closely monitor their environment.

Other impacts include:

  • The lack of medical funding which can result in the distribution of misleading information on potential cures;
  • Lack of funds or investment in new technology for research may put vulnerable populations at risk by delaying or stopping cures from being developed;
  • Regulations in medical technology provide many ethical considerations.
  • Medical technology advances can result in unforeseen consequences, for example laser corrected vision can result in permanent damage if done incorrectly. There have been reported cases where the person’s sight was worse than before the eye surgery.

Abortion and Reproductive Rights

A hugely controversial area in which technology plays a part in interpretation of human rights. Abortion is a term that essentially refers to the woman’s right in order to terminate a pregnancy. There are different laws that deal with the legality of the termination in the United Kingdom.  In the USA it is estimated that nearly 50% of all pregnancies are unintended and from this some 22% end in a result of either miscarriage or abortion. In the year 2005, it was estimated that some 1.21 million abortions were performed in the USA. Further, it was estimated that over 45 million abortions were conducted in the USA. (Guttmacher Institute, 2010).  Further, statistical evidence reports that 50% of most women in America will be faced with an unforeseen pregnancy before the age of 45.

In general, terms the Medical opinion tends to be somewhat neutral. The British Medical Association stated:  Doctors should make every effort to inform the patient if they have any ethical views and oppose abortion.  The opinions of the Doctors being pro or anti-abortion differ from different regional areas in the USA.  Perhaps the easiest stance is to examine the position put forward by the American Medical Association who stated – Doctors who do not want to perform abortions still have an obligation to refer patients.  (Pennachio, D.L. 2002).

Conclusion

Technology will continue to make significant advances over the foreseeable future.  As the world moves into the second phase of globalization there will be greater integration of technology into the third and developing worlds.  Inevitably progress will create both positive and negative outcomes but the world is slowly improving its human rights records.  The medical profession will need to re-examine its code of conduct and ethical codes in order to ensure that they embrace the changes in technology.  This will also involve shifts in philosophical outlooks in addition to the purely scientific perspectives.  Globalization has increased the risk of pandemics but potentially technology will be our most potent weapon against these diseases.

References

Guttmacher Institute. (2010, 5 17). Facts on induced abortion in the USA. Retrieved 4 23, 2012

Jorasch, G. K. (2009). Technology`s positive impact on human rights. San Francisco CA: Stanford University Social Innovation Centre.

Pennachio, D. (2002, 11 10). Abortion: A right or an outrage? . Retrieved 4 23, 2012

Weeramantry, C. (1993). The impact of technology on human rights. Hague, Netherlands: International Court of Justice.

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