I. New Possibilities of Medical Technology
Advances in computer image processing enabled reconstruction of pictures of organs to be made in new planes and projections, representations of organs “dissected free” from their surroundings, and the superimposition and synthesis of information from various sources, thereby making magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT), and positron emission tomography (PET) possible. The possibility of image-guided interventions for non-invasive or minimal invasive techniques can also be expected in the future.
Just as CT benefited from parallel developments in measuring techniques, software, and computers, other medical techniques have incorporated these technologies. From the work done on image slice reconstruction in MRI and PET, the same reconstruction principles can be used on, for example, the imaging of tiny electrical currents in the brain by the use of superconducting quantum interference devices.
II. EFFECTS OF MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY
When a new item of medical technology becomes available, the full range of benefits, along with the most effective means of using it, is still being determined. Therefore reasons to use it may be found, not only when it is clearly needed—but also when the benefits from doing so may not ultimately be found to outweigh the risks and discomfort involved in using it. More often than not, the new techniques or medications are very expensive, mainly because these new techniques are provided additionally to existing services.
A. Health-Care Financing
Most medical technology innovations over the past few decades have led to annual increases in health-care services expenditure. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that this is increasing by 1 per cent annually. However, this is not solely direct expenditure incurred from the purchase of technology—it also includes the staff and support costs required to provide services to patients.
While there is a desire to encourage technological advances in medical technology. This subsequent is increases in industrial output, employment, and exports. By the way, there is at the same time, pressure to increase cost-effectiveness of health care and to contain further increases in costs in the National Health Service.
B. Ethics and Medical Technology
While further developments of these and other areas in medical technology hold much promise, they also pose great ethical problems. Many of the patients who would have died from chronic illnesses a few decades ago now survive them. It is because of enhancements in medical technology. Through artificial respirators, defibrillators, kidney dialysis machines, and other life-support equipment as well as other devices, those same patients now are often able to survive into old age. Questions are raised as to whether it is ethical to sustain and prolong life; for example, is it ethical for machines to keep accident victims technically alive in a coma? Or who should receive priority in the use of scarce resources and expensive technologies? The medical technologists, faced by more ethical issues than ever before as medical technology races ahead—sometimes without anyone considering whether it should be applied, require a consistent framework of medical ethics in which all health-care professionals can make satisfactory moral choices.