Sample Health Care Essay on Ethical Issues of ICT Systems in the Healthcare

Ethical Issues of ICT Systems in the Healthcare

Healthcare system is one of the most contested debates in both the developed economies as well as the developing countries. In fact, the introduction of computer-support reinforced this controversial issue due to the diversity of opinions, perspectives and interests of the people. ICT has certainly revolutionized healthcare in numerous areas including ensuring safety, monitoring and fiscal accounting among others (Duquenoy, George & Kimppa, 2008). However, the application of ICT in the healthcare has led to the rise of ethical issues related to confidentiality and privacy, standardization, transparency, literacy issues, liability issues, work ethics, and intellectual property rights. Primarily, the ethical issues address the interests of the people as well as their well-being.  A major challenge in addressing unethical behavior is dealing with logic reasoning that defines morality. When individuals provide grounds for acting in a certain manner, they engage in moral justification. Most of ethical theories are based on the logic of reasoning morally and try to establish if there are genuine methods of reasoning ethically. This paper highlights major ethical issues encountered in healthcare as a result of using ICT systems in the day to day activities. Healthcare providers often find themselves in ethical dilemmas in the above mentioned issues that affect them directly or indirectly.

The Ethical Issues

Use of ICT raises transparency questions among the users as to whether they are provided with models of how the system in place works. Users of the healthcare system need to be notified when their activities affect the system in place in line with the principle of responsibility. The question of whether the application of ICT systems ensures standardization with regards to tolerance of variations is an ethical issue (Kushniruk & Borycki, 2008). The biggest question is whether the standards in place through application of ICT systems have effects on quality and whether they reduce discrepancies and variations. ICT systems application in the healthcare also raises work ethics issues among the healthcare professionals. Whether they affect healthcare practitioners negatively or affect organizational hierarchies.  Confidentiality and privacy issues have risen as a result of application of healthcare systems.

            Questions arise as to the limitations of sharing electronic information recorded for patients. Also in controversy are the intellectual property issues arising from use of websites in healthcare as well as database management in the healthcare. Issues of liability also arise as a result of relying on health information provided online (Kushniruk & Borycki, 2008). There are questions as to whether healthcare providers should be held liable for publishing misleading health information online. Last but not the least, there are concerns as to whether the health information is made available to the users in a manner that helps them to understand their health challenges in order to make informed decisions.

The Ethical Theories

Ethical theories seek to answer questions of what is right or wrong as well as the duties of individuals under certain circumstances. Absolutists and relativists have different opinions with regards to morality theory. According to the absolutists, the reasons for judging the conduct of human beings are similar, independent of place, time and the people who are involved. Relativists   on the other hands argue that the reasons for judging the conduct of individuals vary depending on social, cultural and economic needs (Messerly, 2000). Greatest happiness ethical theory advocated by Mill and categorical imperative ethical theory developed by Immanuel Kant and virtue theory are the most stunning theories that apply to the use of ICT systems in the healthcare.

The Virtual Ethical Theory

The virtue theory focuses on building the human character. According to the theory, professionals should act ethically after cultivating particular traits that recognizes the right and wrong. It argues that people with bad character are likely to act wrongly irrespective of the moral toolkit they are provided with (McGlynn & Toner, 2009). With regards to application of ICT systems in the healthcare, practitioners often find themselves in ethical dilemmas as to what is right or wrong.

Great Happiness Ethical Theory

Greatest happiness theory on the other hand is based on the assumption that code of conduct are build on universally accepted virtues, duties and ethical principles. Several codes of conduct have been advocated by organizations, universities as well as professional bodies in response to ethical challenges facing the application of ICT systems in the healthcare. These codes of conduct seek to shape the behavior of professionals in the healthcare who utilize ICT systems in their day to day operations (Hill, 2001). They include E-health code of ethics, ACM code of ethics among others.

The categorical Imperative Ethical Theory

The categorical imperative ethical theory advocated by Immanuel Kant focuses on analyzing and understanding the ethical challenges. Kent argues that the moral experts who possess certain profession should help in supporting ethical behavior with social and scientific studies. He emphasizes on the need for consulting ethical professionals in order to address the ethical challenges (Daniels, 2004).He further adds that the problem with introducing ethical standards in paces of work is the tendency for the new standards to conflict with the newly introduced standards. He notes that understanding the internal rules is critical in ensuring ethical behavior. In a nutshell, the categorical empirical theory defines morality as a transformation of practices and norms in places of work.


Daniels, C. B. (2004). The evaluation of ethical theories. Halifax, N.S: Published for the Canadian Association for Pub. in Philosophy by Dalhousie University Press.

Duquenoy, P., George, C., & Kimppa, K. (2008). Ethical, legal, and social issues in medical informatics. Hershey, PA: Medical Information Science Reference

Hill, T. E. (2001). Contemporary ethical theories. New York: Macmillan.

Kushniruk, A. W., & Borycki, E. (2008). Human, social, and organizational aspects of health information systems. Hershey, PA: Medical Information Science Reference.

McGlynn, J. V., & Toner, J. J. (2009). Modern ethical theories. Milwaukee: Bruce Pub. Co.

Messerly, J. G. (2000). An introduction to ethical theories. Lanham, Md: University Press of America.