Ethical Issues in Health

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Ethical Issues in Health

Abortion is one of the most polarising moral issues in today’s society. It presents an ethical dilemma for many people and especially all healthcare professionals involved. Firstly, this essay will begin by briefly outlining the highly controversial issue of abortion, discuss why this topic draws fierce debate, for and against, and explain the current legal standing in the UK today. It will then move on to explain how different ethical models can be used in relation to ethical dilemmas, in particular Thiroux’s Five Principles of Ethic’s. Using this model to discuss how each principle individually applies to this contested issue it will then conclude by summarising and highlighting the main conflicts regarding abortion. The oxford dictionary defines abortion as ‘the expulsion of a foetus from the womb before it is able to survive independently and the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy’ ( This can be a very painful topic with many issues causing debate. Answering all of the surrounding issues can be extremely complex, with many factors having to be taken into account as each person has their own individual and personal reasons for abortion. Currently in the UK abortion is legal and, in accordance with The Abortion Act 1967, must be carried out before 24 weeks of pregnancy, although there are certain exceptions when the law states that an abortion may be carried out later. The Act also states certain criteria that must be met which includes: - two doctors must agree that an abortion would cause less damage to a woman's physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy and abortions must be carried out in a hospital or a specialised licensed clinic (Jackson, 2001). There are different methods of abortion, depending on the length of pregnancy, which include the abortion pill for pregnancies up to 9 weeks and surgical methods for further progressed pregnancies which involve the use of local or general anaesthetic. From 7-15 weeks of pregnancy suction termination is a procedure that uses gentle suction to remove the foetus from the womb. From 15 weeks onwards surgical dilation and evacuation (D&E) is a procedure where the cervix is gently stretched and dilated and forceps and a suction tube are used to remove the foetus. Pregnancies between 20-24 weeks use a combination of the previous methods and involve an overnight stay in hospital with either general anaesthetic used or early labour induced (Francome, 2004). When dealing with topics such as abortion conflicting moral principles and rules may create dramatic dilemmas and the use of ethical models help to analyse these dilemmas. Although there is no single or universal theory of ethics, each model is the starting point of a framework that offers solutions to ethical dilemmas. Thiroux’s Five Principles of Ethics is one model that identifies five clear principles which, although there are many commonly held values in our society, he describes as near absolutes or enduring ethical values. These include: - 1.) The principle of the value of life - humans should value and respect life. This also implies the acceptance of death as the ethics of consequence apply when further treatment may be judged to cause more harm than good.  2.) The principle of Individual freedom - Individuals must have the freedom to choose their own way of being moral within the framework of the other four basic principles. This principle considers an individual’s right to autonomy and where complete autonomy may not be possible, every effort should be made to maximise the opportunity for all to implement their choices. 3.) The principle of goodness or righteousness (encompasses beneficence and non-maleficence) - we should strive to do good and avoid the bad. When situations arise where there are no good decisions left a choice between the lesser of the two evils may be inevitable.  4.) The principle of justice or...
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