The P&L Balancing Act of Modern Day Medicine
Doctors are often faced with a dilemma: how to balance their ethical duty to do no harm and to heal their patients, with the economic pressure to make a profit from their services. This article explores this issue and its implications for the medical profession and society.
The Hippocratic Oath is an ancient Greek text that is widely regarded as the foundation of medical ethics. It requires physicians to swear by a number of healing gods that they will uphold certain principles, such as treating patients according to their best judgment, avoiding harm and injustice, respecting confidentiality, and refraining from giving deadly drugs or performing abortions. The oath also stipulates that physicians should regard their teachers as their parents, share their knowledge with their students, and treat their colleagues as their brothers.
However, the oath was written in a different historical and cultural context than the modern world. Today, medicine is not only a noble profession, but also a lucrative business. Doctors must deal with various stakeholders, such as insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations, hospitals, and governments, who may have conflicting interests and expectations from them. Doctors also must cope with the rising costs of medical education, equipment, and malpractice lawsuits. These factors may create incentives or pressures for doctors to compromise their ethical standards or to prioritize profit over patient welfare.
For example, in this medicine for profit world, some doctors may overprescribe drugs or tests that are not necessary or beneficial for the patient but generate more revenue for themselves or their employers. Some doctors may withhold information or options from the patient that may affect their consent or choice of treatment. Some doctors may neglect or discriminate against patients who are uninsured or underinsured, or who belong to marginalized groups. Some doctors may participate in research or practices that are unethical or harmful to human dignity or rights.
These practices not only violate the Hippocratic Oath, but also undermine the trust and respect that society has for the medical profession. They also harm the health and well-being of the patients and the public. Therefore, it is important for doctors to uphold their ethical values and principles, even when they face challenges or temptations from the realities of making a profit from people at their sickest and most vulnerable.
One way to do this is to adopt a more holistic and humanistic approach to medicine, which considers not only the physical, but also the psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of health and illness. Another way is to advocate for a more equitable and accessible health care system, which ensures that everyone has access to quality and affordable medical services, regardless of their income or background. A third way is to engage in continuous education and reflection, which keeps them updated on the latest scientific developments and ethical issues in medicine.
By doing these things, doctors can honor the Hippocratic Oath and fulfill their role as healers and benefactors of humanity.