Navigating the Ethics of Healthcare

Healthcare: Entitlement vs. Right

In an era where the face of healthcare is rapidly changing amidst an affordability crisis, the question on everyone’s mind is simple: is healthcare a right to all that live in our country? This question is difficult and goes into the entitlement vs. right debate. As a future physician assistant, you must bear in mind that it is our obligation as health care providers to provide care to everyone, giving them the best care possible.  That being said, we need to always make sure we act ethically and base our decisions around providing the best possible care without bringing our own biases or morals into play.

The idea the health care is a right has been almost ubiquitous for years, and it’s a topic that all health care providers must face.  During your physician assistant program interviews, you may be faced with a number of different scenarios where the healthcare entitlement vs. right question comes into play. While you’re preparing for your interview by taking stock of your experiences and experimenting with how to highlight your best attributes, you’ll also want to run through some hypothetical situations that touch on this topic.

Consider the following scenarios.

Scenario 1:You notice that one of your colleagues is stealing drugs because she says that she has a friend without insurance or money to pay for them.  What do you do?

This hypothetical situation can be all too common with healthcare premiums rising, pricing out individuals who can’t afford even the lowest tier plans. Having an ethical response to a situation like this is crucial, but your answer will have much more of an impact if you can speak competently about the channels through which individuals with no insurance or low income can access the care needed.

Scenario 2: You hear that someone with a stab wound was just admitted to the emergency room and you discover it is your best friend. What do you do?

Once again, we find ourselves in a hypothetical situation where professional ethics outweighs your personal inclinations.  While many of us would give our best friend a larger portion of attention than a patient who is a stranger to us, this isn’t morally justifiable.  Should you do your best to inform your friend that they won’t be receiving special treatment? Should you remove yourself as their care provider and replace yourself with another member of your team if possible? Navigating this situation correctly depends on your ability to separate your sense of your friend’s entitlement to your attention and focus on the right of all of the other patients in need of care.

Scenario 3: One of your team members is asked to assist in performing an abortion, but they believe in the right to life and are morally opposed to abortions.  What do you do?

Abortions are a heated topic in today’s political landscape.  They can provide a significant personal conflict as they can go against a person’s moral compass.  Certain healthcare facilities allow care providers to opt out of taking part in this procedure if there is another staff member capable of taking the provider’s place, but what if nobody is available or the facility you work at doesn’t offer this option? Much like the situations prior, the team member must check their personal convictions at the door and give priority to the patient’s right to care. While everyone in our country is entitled to their own beliefs, your beliefs cannot stand in the way when providing medical care that is legally offered through the facility that employs you.

Ultimately, we behave differently in various situations. Our behavior differs from person to person and scenario to scenario. The best way to act in a situation where a patient’s right to healthcare may be compromised due to the moral beliefs of yourself or a team member is to follow professional ethics to the best of your ability. Remember that you are free to follow your moral compass but that this has the potential to stand in the way of someone’s right to healthcare, so do your best to put the ethical rights of others first when providing care.