Ethics in Healthcare
Ethics, or the branch of philosophy that deals with morality, discusses and defines human action in terms of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. What is of great interest is the fact that only human action presents this peculiar dilemma and is subject to this dualism. A tiger killing a deer or a dog having more than one mating partners cannot be judged as indulging in immoral or unethical behaviour. But man, in spite of emerging and evolving from a state of animality is held to task for killing or committing adultery. Of course a soldier kills for his country and an Indian Muslim has special privileges as far as marriage is concerned. But the question is – how do we distinguish a terrorist from a soldier or why is it that we have different laws for people from different religions in a secular country! The issues offer themselves for a discourse of greater length, which in the present context is ill affordable. However, what is of importance is the fact that the dilemma of the ‘right or wrong’ is after all a question of human interests. Depending on the balance of power, the right or wrong is a question of interests being served, to one, a few, or a larger number of people.
Accepting the assumption that a greater majority of people in India take recourse to the private sector for curative services, the interests of patients and those responsible for their treatment, definitely hangs in an unfair balance. Ignorance coupled with poor health habits (prevalent in both urban and rural population), prepare a good breeding ground for a great many diseases. In an economy that favours the free market forces, physicians and businessmen coalesce and function as free agents selling their services to patient-consumers. Taking advantage of the predicament, they often gain leverage by inducing fear with the aim of extracting as much economic benefit as possible. Such ambitions, at the least lead to unequal and unfair distribution of healthcare resources, and at worst disasters like the one at AMRI (Kolkata). With a significant section of the population incapable of accessing health-insurance, and ineligible for free public healthcare services as they earn just enough to disqualify themselves from such facilities, the question that becomes obvious is whether the healthcare system in our country is ethical and just? The answer is equally obvious and tilts towards an emphatic ‘no’!
The ignorance and poor health habits on one hand and unfair business practices on the other present an ideal condition for the cause of greater health awareness. The concept of preventive healthcare is one such alternative avenue which can awaken that awareness and create a scope for the enforcement of pre-emptive measures. Keeping in mind the fact that dearth of quality healthcare resources and its proper allocation is one of the biggest challenges that India faces today, a greater consciousness of one’s health and action based on that knowledge definitely goes a long way in serving the interests of a greater number of people.