Medical ethics and contemporary challenges

Medical ethics and contemporary challenges

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The National Assembly has the responsibility of enacting laws to regulate and govern our behaviour in all ramifications of life including medicine.

However, the Nigerian society, possibly due to the lethargy inflicted by long years of military rule, has not the properly utilised this avenue in reshaping, recreating and repositioning the country.

The legislative community in Nigeria does not have monopoly of the knowledge of our society hence the lawmakers seek interaction with the public in drafting bills.

The civil society, human rights groups and even professional bodies should seize this opportunity of interaction with our legislators to improve our laws by ethically interrogating issues and making strong submission that will help to guide our legislative community.

Ethics is the avenue for articulating new and better ways of doing things that will lead to the ultimate building of an egalitarian society.

The African culture, however, thrives on superstitions and taboos designed by the ruling elite without any input from the masses which frustrates development.

Medical ethics, therefore, seek to interrogate contemporary issues concerning the practice of medicine by leveraging on moral psychology as a premise.

It is the application of these moral principles to guide the practice that constitute sound medical ethics superior to culture, religion and even the traditional Hippocratic Oath.

This is the role for the setting up of ethical committees in all of our hospitals and ministries of health to safeguard the practice of medicine in conformity to best practices that may be superior to our obsolete medical laws if they ever exist.

Medical laws are products of a robust medical ethics that seek to engage contemporary medical issues.

For instance, there is a law on suicide that stipulates that anyone that survives a suicide attempt is liable to 10 years imprisonment.

There are many other archaic and obsolete prescriptions in the lunatic code that guide the practice of psychiatry in Nigeria even till date. Medical ethics as a leadership paradigm through well-constituted committees should engage medical issues proactively rather than the punitive mandate of our medical tribunals.

There is the need to interrogate religious and cultural norms interfering with medical practice in the context of moral principles that engender best practices.

The medical community does not need to wait for a perfect legal system to conform to high ethical standards. We can be steps ahead of our obsolete medical laws through ethical engagement and entrenchment of sound moral principles that situate service above self.

This can be done through our annual general meetings, clinical meetings and inclusion in our medical curriculum.

There also the need to review roles that medical practitioners played concerning deceased patients through clinical audit.

This practice puts everyone on their toes to ensure that patients are not used as guinea pigs.

The clinical audit is an avenue to entrench medical ethics through an in-house investigation. The audit must also be extended to our private hospitals through an ethical committee constituted by our state ministries of health to investigate unusual deaths and alleged malpractice without waiting for the logistic coroners inquiry.

Sanctions, recommendation of further trainings and restricting certain hospitals from taking on certain kinds of patients may be necessary.

The ethical committees should have mandates that can effectively engage cultural interferences in our medical practice that manifest through low reportage of malpractices and nepotism.

There are also growing economic interests that stimulate the setting up of big, highly-equipped medical institutions that charge patients so much but essentially parade incompetence.

Some of these hospitals are managed essentially for gain at the expense of ethical responsibility. There are issues of political interest and interference in the proper management and investigation of hospitals that are performing below standards.

The doctor as the head of the medical team should demonstrate high sense of commitment to high ethical standards to legitimise leadership. There have been cases of some doctors collecting millions of naira for fake assisted infertility. There are also allegations of some cutting only the skin for a surgical procedure fully paid. Again, there are accusations that some sexually assault vulnerable patients, among many other unethical practices.



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