Ethical Dilemmas and Ethical Competence in the Daily Work of Research Nurses
Ethical problems as consequences of evidence-based medicine (EBM) have insufficiently been investigated and discussed. EBM--as initially intended--is usually interpreted as an attempt to treat patients individually with respect to their personal preferences and the present situation according to the best available clinical evidence. This practice is in line with accepted medical ethics. Therefore, it does not appear to be a relevant issue for discussion at first sight. However, between the theoretical concept and the practical use (or misuse) of this approach discrepancies exist which require some considerations. In particular the practical use of EBM generates a number of ethical problems: EBM is increasingly misused as an instrument of resource-allocation. Based on randomized controlled trials (RCTs) for very specific patient groups, the general access to medical supply is regulated and limited. The recurrence to general ("supra-individual") external evidence may additionally be in strong contrast to the individual patients' intentions and will and leads to conflicts for therapy decisions. If no longer the individual preferences and the patients' will are in the center of therapy decisions but a so called "general welfare", the mutual trust between patient and doctor is eroded. The utilitaristic approach of a primacy of this general welfare in opposition to the individual welfare is favored by the present interpretation and use of EBM. This conflicts with the perception of the doctor as a patient's advocate. However, the doctor being the patient's advocate is the basis of the traditional medical ethos. We should take care that we do not completely lose the basis of our medical ethos.