In the late twentieth century, with medical technology on so many vast areas of development, at least one predominant fear surrounds the profession. That fear, malpractice cases against both primary and secondary care givers, has so subjugated the medical profession that it is often impossible to find a doctor willing to perform certain types of surgery or prescribe certain types of medication.
One of the clearest problems with the rise of malpractice cases has been the translated cost in insurance for the care givers, which is then passed on to the consumer. This is a problem from a sociological perspective because it is clearly the mission of medical personnel to provide aid to others and, as a consequence of the Hippocratic Oath, to give the best health care available.1
Given this, then it is the moral and ethical duty of a health professional to utilize whatever techniques he or she thinks are appropriate in order to save lives. Under the rubric of the medical profession, however, there are certain standards, often referred to as "normal standards of practice." These standards are clinically accepted patterns of care that have been tested and proven to have the highest
1 Larry I. Palmer, Law, Medicine, and Social Justice, (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989), 13435.
On the positive side, these standards of practice are likely to have been those that were taught in medical school, and those that have statistically proven to be the most effective under reasonable circumstances. Health professionals are likely well versed in these methods, and are probably comfortable with the techniques as well.
However, there are certain situations that do not lend themselves to standard practices. In health care, for instance, situations in Hospital Emergency Rooms or treatments for diseases that are currently incurable would not be covered under the normal standards as listed above. If physicians limit themselves...