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22 September 2023 | Posted by angela.tuduri

Medical Ethics Day: Challenges and Commitments of the 21st Century

The World Medical Association establishes September 18 as World Medical Ethics Day.

The WMA is the non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting the ethics and improvement of medical care that represents physicians worldwide. 

Medical ethics is the branch in charge of the principles and values that should govern medical practices. These principles are based on respect for human dignity, patient autonomy, justice and beneficence, among others. 

This ethic, based on sound principles, guides health professionals in their mission to care and heal, and is celebrated annually every September 18.  

Medical ethics throughout history - Fundamental principles 

Figures such as Hippocrates and his well-known Hippocratic Oath have influenced the development and configuration of the ethical principles that still guide medicine today. The evolution of these principles reflects the adaptation of medical ethics to changing circumstances and technological advances. 

The four fundamental principles of medical ethics are: 

  • Autonomy: The patient has the right to make decisions about his or her own medical care. This includes the right to give or withhold consent for medical treatment, as well as the right to be fully and comprehensively informed about diagnosis, treatment options and prognosis. 

  • Beneficence: The physician must act in a way that benefits the patient. Health care providers must do whatever is necessary to help the patient and provide the treatment and care necessary for the patient's recovery and health. 

  • Non-maleficence: The physician must act in a way that does not cause harm to the patient. Physicians should take all necessary precautions to avoid harming their patients during the diagnostic and treatment process. 

  • Justice: Patients should have access to the medical care they need, regardless of their race, religion, sex, origin or socioeconomic status. 

These principles are vital to ensure that medical care is safe, effective and respectful of patients' rights. 

The Importance of Medical Ethics Education 

Ethics education is essential in the training of physicians and health professionals. Educational programs and codes of ethics in medical institutions play a crucial role in training physicians who understand and apply ethical principles in their daily practice. 

Medical ethics is a constant reminder that medicine is not only science, but also a commitment to society. 

Benefits of medical ethics in medical practice 

Medical ethics is important in medical practice for some of the following reasons: 

  • It ensures the safety and efficacy of medical care: The ethical principles of nonmaleficence and beneficence help physicians make decisions that protect the health and well-being of their patients. 

  • Protects patients' rights: The ethical principles of autonomy and fairness help ensure that patients have the opportunity to make decisions about their own health care and that they have access to the care they need. 

  • Promotes trust between physicians and patients: Patients are more likely to trust their physicians if they know that the physicians are acting ethically and responsibly. 

Modern medicine poses new ethical dilemmas, such as end-of-life decision making, palliative care, and assisted reproductive medicine. In an increasingly technological world, physicians face challenges related to data privacy and artificial intelligence-assisted decision making.  

Medical ethics remains the compass that guides professionals in these complex situations. 

Training related to medical ethics 

Training in medical ethics is essential to ensure that health professionals are prepared to make ethical decisions in their daily practice. 

Degree in Health Engineering 

La Salle-URL's Bachelor's Degree in Health Engineering offers a comprehensive training in the field of health, combining a complete education in engineering, management, innovation and health sciences, with a human and health care perspective.   

Students will develop unique skills in the fields of technology, health and innovation, with the possibility of internships in hospitals and companies in the sector.  

Master in eHealth 

The Master in eHealth of La Salle-URL offers specialized training in the application of information and communication technologies in the field of health.  

The program responds to the challenges of the healthcare industry through the development and implementation of digital solutions. These training programs provide healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to act ethically and responsibly in their daily practice. 

In short, medical ethics is a fundamental aspect of medical practice. Healthcare professionals must be trained in the ethical principles of medicine to ensure that the care they provide is safe, effective and respectful of patients' rights. 

Training programs related to medical ethics, such as La Salle-URL's Bachelor's Degree in Health Engineering and Master's Degree in eHealth, provide healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to make ethical decisions in their daily practice. 

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