Since few decades, a rapid advancement has been observed in the field of healthcare science that has saved and cured millions of lives around the globe. However, it is noted that every technology, specifically in healthcare science in its beginning stage confronted criticism from the experts, as well as society due to pre-conceived cultural and ethical norms and values. In this regard, a progression in healthcare always has to convince experts and society practically and ethically respectively. Specifically, this paper will endeavor to focus on ethical issues related to one of the major advancements in healthcare science: Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplants that has played a crucial and contributive role in curing patients affected with Leukemia. In order to converse about ethical issues of the case study, a brief analysis of its process will allow better understanding of ethical and moral impact.
Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplants
HSCT is the relocation of blood stem cells originated from the bone marrow or blood. Stem cell transplantation was found utilizing bone-marrow-derived stem cells by a working party at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center since the 1950s during the 1970s run by E. Donnall Thomas. Possibilities of death and morbidity after HSCT are significant and differ in kind, era, rate, and sternness in accordance with the category of stem cells and donor applied in addition to further patient, illness and rehabilitation associated issues. It is a suitable cure for Leukemia. (Champlin, pp. 19-20, 2000) Transformation of hematopoietic stem cells is well-known treatment for many inborn or obtained harsh complaints of the hematopoietic system, as well as for chemo sensitive or radiosensitive melanomas. It is a successful but expensive medicinal procedure.
It is noted during the study that parents of children affected from leukemia confront a complicated dilemma. Advancements in healthcare science have allowed experts to cure such disease from child’s body by hematopoietic stem cells. However, one of the major requirements of such transplants is compatible cells that are essential for a successful transplant. In this regard, in such a case, few parents go for second child to acquire matching stem cells for affected child, hoping to get the cure. In this process, prenatal test, and diagnosis facilitates parents to check the status of fetus whether it is affected or not. (Angelos, pp. 23-25, 2007) At this moment, couples confront conflicts with their cultural and moral values, as a number of ethnic values do not allow such processes and checking of fetus, and state such process as unethical in the society. Another ethical issue confronted is purposeful conceiving of child for cure that is considered unethical in various cultures. In this regard, parents confront a number of ethical and cultural conflicts while going for treatment of their affected children.
In this regard, although these stem cell transplants have been a ray of hope for patients suffering from leukemia; however, cultural and ethical issues have always been a problem for such medical advancements. In ethnic communities, it is noted that allopathic treatments are often considered something against nature, and thus, they are not preferred in various ethnicities. During the study, it was observed that many patents do not allow their suffering child/children to be treated with these transplants, and prefer homeopathic or traditional medicinal procedures that may not be of any use in leukemia. Specifically, in hematopoietic stem cell transplants, patients from ethnic cultures and communities consider diseases and illnesses as will of God, result of sins in previous life, or often as punishments of parents on children. (Angelos, pp. 23-25, 2007) All such cultural concepts related to diseases and illnesses have not allowed patients and their families from ethnic entities to get treatment from hematopoietic stem cell transplants.
On the other hand, a number of healthcare organizations are endeavoring to collaborate with such families, as well as legal organizations and court to ensure treatment from transplants even in case of disagreement from the families. In these cases, ethical issue of informed consent becomes the major problem, as when courts order treatment without consent of families, then responsibility of cure or failure becomes the critical issue. In this regard, it is imperative that advancement in healthcare science should be carried out with attempts to resolve cultural and ethical conflicts at the same time. However, a number of medical experts have argued that familiarity with a culture requires an individual to understand a long list of stagnant and rigid lists of beliefs and values, and it is almost impossible to consider cultural and moral values of every culture existing around the globe. (Angelos, pp. 23-25, 2007)
Thus, it is the responsibility of parents, family members, and governmental organizations to ensure awareness of such transplants and other advancements of healthcare science that may play a vital role in saving more lives in the future. At the same time, medical experts should put some efforts in understanding religious concepts related to transplants and transfusions that may allow them to relate and communicate effectively with patients from ethnic origins. It is noted that patients of ethnic origin are more likely to relate different events of their lives with their religious and moral beliefs, and thus, ethical issue is nothing but an outcome of unawareness by the caregiver. (Ruzic, pp. 238-239, 2003) According to Clifford Geertz, knowledge and awareness of a culture does not allow prediction; however, allows individuals to understand behavior of people from that ethnicity (Geertz, pp. 41-46, 2003). In this regard, ethical issues can be resolved, if medical experts may endeavor to identify few cultural and religious concepts related to hematopoietic stem cell transplants.
Conclusively, unawareness about moral and religious belief systems is playing a crucial role in generation of ethical issues in healthcare science. On one hand, advancements in the field has allowed humans to donate organs, tissues, and now even cells for transplantations that are saving thousands of patients around the globe. At the same time, needy people are donating their organs and tissues to earn some amount to feed their homes that has been one of the major ethical issues in healthcare science, (DiMartini, pp. 239-241, 2000) and specifically, transplantation.
Some of the other ethical issues related to transplants are getting organs and tissues from dying patients or dead people, which have been prohibited in a number of cultures due to the notion of respect for dead. In this regard, debate of ethics and transplants will continue forever, and only awareness and notion of cultural relativism will allow experts in healthcare science to deal cancer and transplant patients in an efficient and ethical manner. Conclusively, the paper has discussed some of the ethical issues related to hematopoietic stem cell transplants for cancer patients. It is hoped that the paper will be beneficial for students, teachers, and professionals in better understanding of the topic.
Angelos, Peter. (2007). Ethical Issues in Cancer Patient Care. Springer.
Champlin, Richard. (2000). Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplants. Informa Health Care.
DiMartini, Andrea F. (2000). The Transplant Patient. Cambridge University Press.
Geertz, Clifford. (2003). Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books.
Ruzic, Neil P. (2003). Racing to a Cure. University of Illinois Press.