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Dark Side of Healthcare

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I. Introduction

The field of medicine has been one where many events have been unrolling; not only curing the patients but communication about the happenings has to a greater extent been mostly positive. Ideally, the people who participate in this field are entrusted with greater responsibility of taking care of humankind by conducting research in medicine that would help improve the standard of living or rather ensure the survival of men and women.

II. Healthcare in Ancient Times (Trueman)

Studies carried out in this field have, however, revealed a great deal of untold stories about physicians performed inhuman experiments. These include some of the worst things that an individual healthcare professional would indulge in such as murder. For example, Kristen Gilbert was convicted of killing four people, and she did it for the thrill of creating medical emergencies (Foss).  This is not what one typically expects from a healthcare provider. Although healthcare workers start with great ideal such as the Hippocratic Oath: “I will do no harm or injustice to them” (Greek Medicine), and patients place a vast amount of trust in these people, much historical evidence shows how they have abused their responsibilities leading to serious consequences. Healthcare workers can abuse this trust and power with detrimental effects.

III. Historical Evidences of Failures in Healthcare

Some failures have not been prevented even in the present day. Therefore, every medical team should remember its primary obligation which is caring for patients instead of killing them. Throughout the history, healthcare workers have been treating sickness according to their scientific knowledge and have had to earn patients’ trust. According to the historical evidence, sickness has been considered mostly as a will of God, possession by demons, witchcraft or caused by unknown reasons. Fortunately, these traditions did not last for long after the civilization had been established in places like ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Studies have shown that there is some archaeological evidence that proves that healthcare was provided even in the ancient times which the modern historians called civilization.

Chris Truman, a graduate student from Aberystwyth University, believes that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans provided treatment with medical knowledge that they had and that was not depending on magicians or medicine men (Truman). It is not unusual that people in ancient times had great knowledge in medicine. Egyptians practiced with dead bodies to enlarge their knowledge, became well versed in mummification, Greeks researched medical knowledge related to finding natural causes, and Romans tried to improve public health with building public bath systems; it is described in many historical documents such as papyruses or parchments. They tried to cure the illnesses or to prevent them from getting worse.

Certified archaeological speleologist Sarah K. Yeomans points out that medicine was strongly linked with religious aspects, but scientists and physicians had performed surgical procedures such as “inserting a needle behind the lens of the eye in order to remove the cataract” and described how to prepare patient for these procedures (Yeomans).  Based on these examples, medicine was provided to people to advance their health status or public health and eventually, it had contributed to modern medicine. Ancient medicine improved as the civilization advanced and became more civilized. Ultimately, it led to the establishment of additional healthcare procedures, and the Hippocratic Oath was written during the Ancient Greek time. 

To ensure proper behavior through moral constraints, fundamental structures of medicine were made so that to include Hippocrates and Hippocratic Oath.  Hippocrates became the symbol of modern medicine, similar to the father of medicine, and his Oath that every doctor must know is recited by every graduating medical student. The oath was composed during the fourth century B.C. Unfortunately, there is no evidence who truly wrote the Oath and how it became widely used. Nonetheless, the Oath contains several sub-sections, but particularly it requires "swearing to do no harm to one's patients" (Human Experimentation). For that reason, every physician should follow the Oath before he/she practices medicine on patients. Advances in modern medicine have contributed immensely to improvements in mankind, and these credits can be attached to such parameters as an increased life span and reduced infant deaths among others.

As population increased, and people have desired more advanced living status, medicine had to enhance as well. According to the article from the HarvardUniversity, antibiotics are drugs used to kill bacteria by preventing them from reproducing. They are derived from living bacteria, but now they are artificially synthesized by drug companies (New Harvard Guide to Women's Health, The). Antibiotic were founded by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Fleming named it penicillin. Penicillin was widely used during World War II for therapeutic utilization, and surely it played a major role after becoming largely manufactured. It is a common sense that diseases also get enhanced, or new disease is found as population has increased. These contributions can be related to different inventions and research works that have brought in market new drugs such as antibiotics and vaccines. Apparently, this research was derived from the Oath, and it has helped to save numerous wounded soldiers during wars. However, the ideals of the Oath have changed its original purpose as times went by few physicians who acted against the Oath.

IV. Recent failures In Health care

There are numerous events happened in the history, and there are historical evidences of failure during the war. Surely, antibodies have had treated wounded soldiers, but few people have had performed human experiments during the war to test effectiveness of biological weapons. Human experimentation is defined as an activity that includes subjecting human beings to science experiments in order to confirm the functioning of a certain drug. These experimentations are, in most cases, painful, cruel, deadly, and obviously dangerous to human health. Jonathan Watts writes his article for the LANCET discussing the victims of Unit 731 who sue Japanese government. According to Watts, Unit 731 was secretly established during World War II and performed vivisections of prisoners, lethal experiments with pathogens which killed thousands of Chinese civilians (Watts par.1).It is no secret that inhuman experiments were performed by physicians around the world, and many patients were forced to participate in the human experiments Although hundreds of testimonies were heard and thousands of documents were collected, Japanese courts refuse to admit their horrific action in the wartime.  

Over the last few centuries, some of the victims of human experimentation have been compensated, while others have not even after getting damages in terms of their physical and emotional health. Some have also died by unwillingly participating in human experimentation, and no compensations have been given.

According to Charles A Walker, in his article Lest we forget: The Tuskegee Experiment, a Tuskegee experiment is conducted by government health agency, and they inoculated African-American men with Syphilis. The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) examines how syphilis evolves in their bodies and left them untreated. This research caused unethical problems throughout the healthcare system and public. Therefore, by 1972 when the experiment ended, 28 of the original 399 men had died directly of syphilis, and 100 more were dead from related complications. Forty wives had been infected, and 19 children had been born with congenital syphilis (Walker 1). After seeing this proof, it becomes clear that healthcare workers could behave against the Oath. Human experiments could be done by a single human being or by government agencies. The whole dark side of the medical science may not be exhausted that easily, because the available information is not all there and also because these are deeds that have been executed by individuals and, sometimes, the governments may have played a critical role. In the history of the U.S. medical science, the inhumane acts extended to innocent people of all ages and status. Another example of immoral experiments occurred in the 1940s by the U.S. government medical researchers. According to Robert Bazell in his article for U.S. Apologizes for Guatemala STD Experiments, a recent investigation by the Obama administration involving the Presidential Commission on matters relating to bioethical issues has helped shine some light on some aspects of the dark and disturbing history of the U.S. pharmaceutical companies.

A group of American researchers supported by the government purposefully infected people with STD’s in Guatemala including syphilis and gonorrhea “without their knowledge or permission” (Bazell par. 1) Cleary, there is no other objection that either the Tuskegee experiments or the experiments with STD’s putting in Guatemala are unethical. If those infected people had known the information before tests happen and were properly treated after the experiments, those experiments might not be considered as unethical experiments. In fact, those experiments were derived from one’s desire. Although few researches ended up killed patients; those experiments were derived from the intention to cure the syphilis and to protect patients from diseases. Those experiments were considered as failures in history. Instead of being prevented, the failures continue even in the present days and formed a different shape; Mercy Killer.

Some of people might have heard phrases like Mercy Killer or Angel of Death. These terms are used to refer to health professionals who killed patients. According to Tara D. Foss and her article for Angels of death? Mercy killing? How about murder?, nurses were killing patients, but were claimed to be  mercy killers, especially in cases of killing old or sickly, and they did not feel guilty of what they have done. In fact, people whom Foss mentioned in her article acted by their own judgments or for the thrill of creating medical emergencies (Foss Par.6). For instance, Donald Harvey was a nurse’s assistant who killed at least 34 people, and a Swiss nurse killed 27 elderly patients to ease terminally ill people (Foss). Perhaps, these cases narrate especially similar story that Assisted Suicide points out.

A study of the pros and cons of treating the terminally ill patient who is able to commit assisted suicide showed that people who agreed to experience merci killing can decide to die with dignity with their rights, matter of money, organs donation, and typically save them from tremendous pain. The others say that it is violating Hippocratic Oath, and doctors were given too much power (Messerli). Perhaps the assisted suicide might be needed for patients and their families. However, it is also true that some doctors and nurses act against their Oath and abuse the dignity of human life. Sadly, many doctors and nurses abused their power and left the message that the Oath really had not an impact on healthcare professionals.

Doctors and nurses carry enormous responsibilities when treating patients. However, some abandoned their responsibility because it is greatly powerful and heavy to carry on. For example, Henry H. Holmes, born in 1860, is a good example of those individuals who can be used to bring the dark side picture of medical science. He had a Hotel at Chicago which he had turned into a “slaughter house” of hundreds of guests that he would trap there. The Hotel was opened in 1893 and served in provision of World’s Colombian Exhibition.  A person who was entrusted to take care of the patients is said to have killed around 230 people, though only 27 of them were verified by police. Later, Dr. Henry H. Holmes was hanged as a result of the brutal crimes that he had executed (Biography.com).  This person is known as the first serial killer in the United States’ history, but he is also the doctor who did not keep the Oath. Here is another doctor Harold Shipman who was a general practitioner in the United Kingdom. He was accused of murdering 15 patients with lethal injections of drugs. Later, investigation found that Shipman had murdered 260 patients, and he hanged himself in the prison (Kaplan 209-304). There exist certain patterns regarding the above examples. They are both doctors who could easily get access to lethal drugs, they were friendly with patients and quietly killed people. Why do health workers kill their patients and participate in unethical experiments? Have they forgotten the Oath? Although they have forgotten the Oath, it is impossible to remind the Oath to every one of workers in the hospitals. However, there should be some action throughout the medical field. Perhaps, the nurses can pay more attention to patients and report if anything suspicious happens.

V. Ethical Obligations in Healthcare

Medicine is one of the disciplines that are closely governed by strict ethical obligations. Doctors and nurses are governed by rules, codes of ethics, and, sometimes, they are left to think and implement courses of action by themselves. Healthcare involves two primary parties – patient and the healthcare personnel. Many times standard procedures need to be altered for the better situation. Principles come to play in this case to ensure healthcare personnel are non-maleficent. The right thing, as discussed above, is the requirement that one is supposed to deliver despite pressing matters. On the other hand, doctors, nurses, and physicians are obligated to go against the guidelines and requirements of their field to be of beneficence to their patients. Choices are made with respect to outcomes. Many of these choices involve customized procedures that, according to nurses and the healthcare personnel, in general involve results.

Research in the field of medicine should be in line with the ethical principles governing international human experimentation founded after the World War II. This would impose a ban on direct human experiments especially on testing new drugs and subjecting civilians to dangerous levels of radiation without their consent (Munson 324).

The governments have roles to play too. They should readily assume the duty to regulate and implement transparency in the provisions of humane Medicare practice to ensure that medical practitioners adhere to state laws governing the same. In particular, they should take a firm stand by ruling out such practices as human cloning. Creating a human being whose genetic make-up is identical to an existing individual is called human cloning.  Advances in human embryonic stem cell research and animal cloning developments have heightened the need for legislation on the same. Although some people believe that cloning has the ability to revolutionize healthcare by restoring the health of people, its risks to human survival are high . It is exceedingly essential that governments adopt legislation that will protect the children, women, and elders of generations to come.

To succeed in this area, a comprehensive ban prohibiting both and "therapeutic" and "reproductive" cloning is needed. This fight will uphold human dignity on the prospect of emerging technology. The governments should give a stern ban on abortions of unborn babies as the malpractice through research findings and claims of thousands of women lives (Harkness, Lederer, & Wikler 79). The government should set up effective rules to safeguard emerging technology, genetics ethics, global bioethics, human enhancements, neurotics, organ donation and transplant, public health, reproductive ethics, research ethics, women’s health, and human dignity in general.

The measures raised are crucial to safeguard the natural respect of mankind. Nevertheless, intensive scrutiny measures need be put in place to monitor closely all surgical instruments used in the medical field and ensure that the latter comply with the Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association (SIMA). Drug manufacturers need to comply with the scientifically accepted standards as this will build trust. They should not also collude with doctors to ensure transparency and avoid corruption whose ultimate goal is illegal drugs in the health care field. The pharmaceutical and poisons boards in every country need to inspect drugs occasionally and ensure they meet the required standards. The military must also be reformed in the way it carries its research in the development of weapons which may include the use of human beings as direct specimens. In most cases, the military colludes with the health care sector. Doctors, nurses, surgeons, and physicians need to be regularly trained to avoid careless mistakes which put a threat to the lives of innocent patients.                                                                 

Improving healthcare training and research facilities will encourage more medical trainees and a better environment for medical research. This also requires proper planning and funding which can be taken care of by placing qualified and able personnel where policy making and implementation is required. The government should decentralize health care system is a good idea however with proper management and accountability. An essential measurement of the quality of healthcare is equity and efficiency in its provision. One way the government can ensure equity is by exemption of user fees for critical medical care such as pregnancies, malaria patients aged below five, etc.  Decentralization of the health care system involves transferring political and ownership authority for health care delivery from the central health ministry to alternate institutions.

Medicare care has both the dark and bright side. To sustain the bright side and overshadow the dark, many issues must be addressed with a bigger role from governments since they have the duty to provide free affordable medical care to its citizens.  It is very difficult to protect people from themselves as they are exposed to many dangers . Dangerous human experiments for instance have an eroding impact on the dignity. The government should employ stern measures to those who do not respect the human dignity. When conducting research on populations, the intentions should be made clear to the recipients. The human kind has the right to know and understand the sole purpose of any research conducted .The governments should perform surveillance and frequently patrol the community to provide affordable healthcare to the poor.  The field of modern medicine, though promising to solve human health related problems, is a potential source of danger to future human generations. Working together will not only improve service delivery but also end a wide range of malpractices in the field.

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