Health Care Ethical Considerations

Health care is a major concern for individuals, employers, governments and society as a whole. It is expensive, and its influence on individual health and life quality varies widely. It is important to have a basic understanding of the issues involved, so that we can make informed decisions about what type of health insurance plan to purchase and how to use it.

Many people obtain their healthcare through their employers or a private insurance company (called an HMO or PPO). These plans can be confusing, with different networks of providers, co-pays and deductibles. Those who have difficulty making sense of these options may benefit from seeking advice from a financial planner, health care advocate or consumer advocate.

The basic goal of health care is to preserve and restore mental and physical well-being. However, the methods used in this pursuit are subject to a variety of ethical considerations.

Some view the delivery of health care as a right that should be free, regardless of ability to pay. Others, particularly those with libertarian sympathies, believe that the government should stay out of healthcare and allow it to operate in a free market, with patients purchasing insurance and services as they wish.

Other ethical viewpoints focus on the need for health care to be people-centred and efficient. People-centred refers to meeting individual needs and values, whereas efficiency implies maximizing the benefits of available resources and avoiding waste.

Ethical considerations also surround the issue of fairness. Should everyone get equal amounts of healthcare (even if sicker people need more than the healthy)? Should some be treated more fairly than others, such as those who have contributed most to the system?

It is also important to note that the delivery of health care is highly regulated. This is because of the public concern for safety and quality, as well as the fact that the health care industry is unique in terms of its effect on human life and well-being. This has led to external controls in the United States that are broader, more intrusive and more complex than those found in other industries.

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