Monday, June 23, 2008

Ethical Dilemmas at work

The health care profession seems to be in a conflicting situation, if not an ethical dilemma. Companies in the health care profession often say in their mission statement that their mission is to provide health care, short and long term, to their patients and families. But as companies, they are in the business of business--making money. And in order to make money, they need a constant supply of unhealthy customers. They face an ethical bind: while wanting to promote health, they do not want complete health, else they'd be out of business (or in a significantly reduced state). Think analogously of the auto industry. If they make too efficient and reliable of an auto, people will not need to buy a newer one as often. Yet they want to provide the most reliable auto out there (or at least that is what they want to advertise). In the health care industry, an aim seems to be (or should be) to work themselves out of a job. Get people so healthy, and so much involved in their own personal health maintenance, that they do not need the health care industry.

So what do you think? What do you think a health care business should have as its mission statement? To work themselves out of a job?


Steve said...

Hi, I found this blog through Dan's... pretty interesting.

With regard to the healthcare argument, I think that there are several reasons why the healthcare industry isn't hurt by its own work, and why it may actually benefit itself by creating a healthier society:

First, healthier people are more active, which means that they tend to engage in more high-risk activities (think contact sports, skydiving, and the like). This means more ER care and surgeries, and hence more money. I'm not sure how the total costs play out, but it's at least an alternate way of making money.

Second (and a more compelling argument to me), the majority of an individual's healthcare costs are accrued at the end of her life; this is primarily due to the high costs of elderly care. This means that there is an incentive to find ways for people to live longer, because this extends the moneymaking portion of a person's life. This phenomenon is one of the big reasons Social Security is in danger of running out--people are living longer and costing more.

Third, the healthcare industry doesn't just make money when people get sick. If society is healthier as a whole, this is probably due to a rise in preventive healthcare. Again, this means $ for the industry.

bernadette said...

"providing" health care has nothing to do with promoting health.
as a matter of fact, many medications , while prolonging life or treating disease, may cause new problems ( i.e. side affects).
i agree that the mission statements often include some token healthy clause; but this usually ends up being some monthly asthma workshop sponsored by the local pulmonologist.