The Implications of Technology in Medical Ethics

The world is constantly changing. It’s ever evolving, consistently growing through the introductions of innovation after innovation. The bright minds of today join together to create a future far beyond what most people can even imagine. Not a single day goes by where the world remains unchanged. 

Technology, one of the centers of the future, is no different. Technology has been growing and growing throughout these past years, constantly changing itself and the world around it at an alarmingly fast rate. And, while these changes can fill us with hope for a utopic future, they also raise bleak questions that are important to consider. One these being; what are the implications of technology in medical ethics?

Let’s first take a step back and introduce what we mean when we say “ethics.” Ethics, at its core, are a set of rules that creates barriers between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in respect to a group and culture. It deals with moral duty and obligation and guides people on how to act when faced with an ethical dilemma. It’s essentially the do’s and don’t for anything – a workplace, a school, a restaurant, and even the whole world. 

As the world changes, ethics are quick to keep quick, raising ethical questions and dilemmas to the rapidly developing world. In relation to medical ethics and technology, a lot of ethical concerns have been brought to the forefront. Let’s discuss some of these concerns. 

  1. Patient Privacy

A big concern people have is if trusting advanced software applications with confidential information is a smart decision. The argument, falling under the justice branch of medical ethics, states that, at the end of the day, technology like these aren’t infallible and are prone to failure. What if data falls into the wrong hands? Is the data even being protected? Is patient protection being pushed to the side for efficiency? Technology introduces risks such as data breaches, unauthorized access, and hacking, which are all, whether intentional or not, unethical practices that harm patients and healthcare. 

  1. Bias in Decision Making

Technology like AI can often be used in decision making for patients in hospitals. However, these waters get murky if we look at this from an ethical standpoint. AI collects all data, even times when cases were done with bias against the patient due to their race or gender. If AI takes that into consideration, its decisions may be harmful and heavily biased – which could potentially cause a lot of harm to patients. 

  1. Patient Autonomy

The use of AI to make the ‘right’ decisions also heavily restricts a patient’s autonomy. It honors the choice of extending life rather than respecting a patient’s wish for a dignified death. All of these concerns fall under the beneficence, justice, and autonomy pillars of medical ethics. 

  1. Equitable Access

It’s easy to pretend that everyone has the same access to everything – but that’s simply not the case, especially with technology. Some patients may not have access to the internet or have digital literacy due to their location or income bracket. This could exclude them from the group of people who are privileged to experience the benefits of technology in healthcare. If we make cutting-edge healthcare expensive, how do we ensure that patients in lower income brackets remain healthy?

While it’s amazing to see what technology is doing to our world, it’s important we remain critical and vigilant against problems that might occur. If we do, we can tackle these problems head-on, and allow for our world to advance smoothly – creating a beautiful, hopeful future. 

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