Respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity dr. NindyaAryanty, M. Med. Ed
Respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity In applying and advancing scientific knowledge, medical practice and associated technologies, human vulnerability should be taken into account. Individuals and groups of special vulnerability should be protected and the personal integrity of such individuals respected
Vulnerability Several aspect of vulnerability : • Biological or corporeal vulnerability; this concerns the fragility of the human organism originating from: - natural threats are coming from our biology, ageing, susceptibility to illness and disease, and death - environment and other natural and man-made threats : famine, pollutions, earthquake, etc
Vulnerability 2. Social vulnerability; this concerns the fragility of the human capacity for creating coherence in one’s life and for sharing goods and services a. social threats stemming from war and crime, prejudice and discrimination, cruelty and indifference b. persons also become vulnerable due to hospitalization and institutionalization c. social circumstances and conditions 3. Cultural vulnerability; this concerns the fragility of particular traditions and conceptions of values that are typical for a community or local cultures
Respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity • In ethics, the notion of vulnerability is not just a neutral description of the human condition but instead a normative prescription to take care of the vulnerability that is characteristic for human beings. • Ethics is more than respecting individual choices and decisions; it aims at care for the other
The Fight Against Vulnerability • The vulnerability of the human condition should be eliminated or reduced. • Science and technological innovations should be used to overcome the natural threats. • Medical research should be focused on eliminating the biological threats to the human body. • The basic assumption behind this fight is that any vulnerability of the human condition is in the end contingent, not inherent.
Vulnerability The basic assumption that vulnerability should be eliminated has in itself created problems: • If vulnerability is regarded as an evil to be eradicated, it cannot be given any positive meaning; we cannot understand human vulnerability and thus human suffering • Religion, alternative medicine and traditional knowledge present different ways of knowing and valuing; because they are open to different perspectives, they can give meaning to vulnerability, but their views are generally not accepted by mainstream science or bioethics
Vulnerability • Economic problems; the success of science and technology has created financial difficulties in almost all countries in achieving decent levels of health care for the population. • Medical progress itself has created new forms of vulnerability, i.e. chronic illness. This presents continuing vulnerability for a growing population.
The Dilemmas of Vulnerability • Disability; Disability is viewed as abnormal and the disabled therefore are by definition vulnerable; at the same time the disabled should not be stigmatized by being treated as abnormal. • Death; In medicine the place of death in human life is ambivalent; in palliative care, death is understood as being part of life; in some other sectors of medicine death is still treated as the enemy. • Depression; Prozac is widely used as anti-depressant drug, when there are clear clinical symptoms of depression; at the same time it is regarded as medication for unhappiness and sadness.
The Dilemmas of Vulnerability • Human suffering and misery express human vulnerability. • We must at the same time struggle to keep suffering to a minimum and also accept it as part of life. • Human vulnerability cannot be merely regarded as an enemy to be eliminated. • Too much emphasis on eradication has led to evils in the name of some supposed good: the eugenics movement, Nazism to eliminate the socially and ethnically unfit.
Care Ethics • Human vulnerability also leads to an ethics of care. Because it is a shared characteristic, it is also a source of concern for others as well as awareness that we rely on others. • It is the basis for the duty to care for those threatened by biological, social and cultural threats as well as by the power of medicine itself.
Personal Integrity • Integrity concerns the wholeness of an individual. • In ethical discourse, integrity is often considered as a virtue, related to the honesty of somebody’s character for example. • But respect for personal integrity in this topic does not refer to somebody’s moral character or his/her good behaviour. It refers to fundamental aspects of a human life that should be respected.
Ethics and Personal Integrity • Personal integrity refers here to respect for the patient’s understanding of his or her own life and illness, but also for his/her interests and free will