Recent and Past Bioethical Issues in Medicine

Bioethics in Medicine

The field of ethics in life sciences and medicine has witnessed a great development since the advent of medicine. Bioethics as a field of applied ethics helps in research of legal, social and philosophical issues that occur in life sciences and medicine (Shaw & McMahon, 2012). A number of past and present practices in medicine and life sciences have been documented to have caused a violation of human rights, thus created legal bioethical issues.

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Present Bioethical Issues in Medicine

Numerous recent issues involving medical bioethics have occurred and captured a lot of attention. Most of the present bioethical issues in the world involve human research. However, few cases involve use of animals in the medical research. The most recent example of bioethical issues in medicine is test for Alzheimer’s disease. According to (Jaret, 2014), the scientists recently developed a blood test for the Alzheimer’s disease, which can be done with a simple test like the one for the cholesterol test.

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Although many welcomed the news for the discovery, others have argued that the test can only be viable if an effective treatment for the disease is developed. In citing their arguments, those opposed to the discovery opined that if one learns that he/she was likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, it could cause more harm that help. However, the experts say that the discovery was timely since the ineffective treatment of the disease was due to its late discovery. Through the biomarker, those patients who have the disease in its early stages shall be collected and the drug administered in order to determine its effectiveness.

The issues regarding the unethical Alzheimer’s blood test have received a response from the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. According to the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, they support the new test, pointing the fact that early detection helps the victims in making informed care decisions about the disease before the symptoms set in. Those who opposed the test on the grounds of bioethics asserted that it could cause stigmatization, depression and stress that could worsen confusion and forgetfulness. However, it is unethical to obtain the patient data without their consent. According to (American Medical Association, 2014), the patients undergoing any medical trial must be protected, and a written consent be obtained before the trials are effected. In addition, the Health Information Portability and Accountability under the Administrative Simplification Compliance Act (ASCA) protects the patients from loss of privacy and identity. Thus, the Administrative Simplification Compliance Act (ASCA) is a powerful guideline that may help shield patients undergoing biomedical research process.

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Past Bioethical Issues in Medicine

            The subject of bioethics developed from horrific human violations, which raised the need to protect human against uninformed consent. Therefore, the field of bioethics has a rich history of past events that have violated the rights of humans to informed consent. A good example of past bioethical issue is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study of (1932-1972). According to (Reverby, 2012), the Tuskegee Syphilis Study was a public health service study that was sponsored by the US government and was targeted at the minority African Americans, better known as the Negroes. The study targeted the poor rural African Americans, and it involved deception, the failure to treat syphilis in Tuskegee and lack of real processes of consent.

            The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was carried out for four decades and it covered many African American men (Reverby, 2012). The study involved 439 rural African Americans, and 189 controls without the disease, which were watched and not supposed to be treated. The studies had horrific procedures, which included diagnostic spinal taps and involved a serious and fatal sexually transmitted disease.

            The American Medical Association demands that any subject selection in clinical trials must endeavor to protect the subjects (American Medical Association, 2014). In addition, the U.S Food and Drug Administration, demands that any clinical trial that involves human subjects must ensure the investigators obtain legally effective informed consent (US Food and Drug Administration, 2015).  The violations of the guidelines for the code of ethics that govern such a research will lead to legal actions and possible hefty fines and loss of rights to practice among the clinical investigators involved.

Recommendations to Maintain and Improve the Standards of Ethical Practice in Clinical Research

In order to ensure the safety of the subjects that are being used for clinical trials, as well as increasing of public confidence in the public health vaccination programs, this paper proposes a number of recommendations. First, there is need to increase the use of non-compulsory vaccination programs. According to (Amin, Parra, Kim-Farley, & Fielding, 2012, p. 12), the use of non-compulsory vaccination programs, minimizes clashes of ethical principles and increases the coverage of clinical trials. 

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Moreover, there is need to seek for patient consent before a clinical trial is carried out among a population. This should involve the provision of latest copies of Vaccine Information Statement (VIS), in order to avoid future accusations and ensure that the patients are fully aware and are willing to participate in the clinical trials. Lastly, there is need for continuous review and evaluation of the ethical principles of clinical trials in the relevant health jurisdiction, with a view of modifying them in order to increase their acceptance and effectiveness.

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