The evolution of medicine confronts healthcare professionals with new ethical challenges. Elements such as professional secrecy, patient benefit, justice in the distribution of resources are put in crisis by the evolution of medical procedures. Today, doctors must make life-and-death decisions about many patients. As the resources are not enough for all patients, the ‘first-come, first-served’ criterion crumbles under the weight of the overwhelming demand for treatment. Consequently, they can no longer make treatment decisions based only on proportionality and clinical appropriateness criteria. They must take into account the availability of resources and prioritise patients with ‘the longer life expectancy’. This amounts to saying ‘the weakest will die’ … with the doctors’ consent. While the guidelines issued by scientific societies may well protect doctors from lawsuits, the choice of who to treat and who to let die is left to the conscience of the individual doctor; and it is a choice sharply clashing with the Hippocratic oath and with professional and personal ethics. This and others are a real ethical problem.
Part of the book: Bioethics in Medicine and Society