Approaching technology with ease

Technology is developing rapidly and creates new potentials for better patient care. It also poses new challenges and ethical dilemmas. How do we cope with these?

Technology is developing rapidly and creates new potentials for better patient care. It also poses new challenges and ethical dilemmas. How do we cope with these?

How to avoid the pitfalls of technology


Many healthcare professionals have faced ethical dilemmas related to practicing medical or therapeutic work, as well as it might have been a part of their professional training. This module will dig into what ethical dilemmas are about and provide tools, cases and questions for reflection.

Introduction to the module

The aim of this module is to equip you, your colleagues and healthcare managers with an general approach and tools to breach a discussion on the ethical implications of technology.

In this module you will be introduced to the following tools, which can assist your discussion on how to approach ethics in digital health technologies:

  • Questions for reflection – a simple tool.
  • The Quick and Proper Ethical Assessment Model – a more complex model for more exhaustive ethical assessment.
  • A vocabulary – definition of relevant ethical values.

Both the questions for reflection and the assessment model can be used individually, but are suited for a group based discussions among peers and colleagues.

Ethical dilemmas

By definition, an ethical dilemma involves the need to choose from among two or more morally acceptable options or between equally unacceptable courses of action, when one choice prevents selection of the other.

Ethical dilemmas create a conflict between two courses of action that are both correct but represent different principles or values. If a situation involves doing something right and wrong at the same time and one of those actions negatively impacts the other action, this is what creates the dilemma.

Typically ethical dilemmas arise from conflicts among values, norms, and interests and can be understood as the tension of knowing the “right thing to do, but experiencing institutional or other constraints making it difficult to pursue the desired course of action” (Holm et al.*).

A common example of an ethical dilemma is between weighing the patient’s autonomy and self-determination and beneficence for a potential treatment. For example a patient has chosen not to have surgery to remove a malignant tumor, despite advice and information from the healthcare professionals. In this scenario the patient’s autonomy outweighs the beneficence.

However, with the advent of technology, the ethical dilemmas can appear different. An example is teleconsultations, where the communication is moved to a digital platform, where a digital device is required. Does it exclude a particular vulnerable patient group? Or are there some treatments that are not suitable for this kind of consultations.

The aim of the module is to give healthcare professional tools to find a balance in contradicting ethical values when discussing the compromises we sometime make when interacting with technology.

Ethics and healthcare technology

Technology in itself is not unethical, but it does possess certain options for different uses when it interacts with humans. The designer or developer most often did not intend for ethical dilemmas and unethical situations to occur. However, it is not always possible to predict exactly what might be the effects and consequences of the technology when it is being released and used in a real life setting.

Therefore, it is recommended to consider ethical perspectives as early as possible in the process. In some cases the technology is designed elsewhere, which makes it very difficult to affect the design phase. Yet, it is still as a healthcare manager as well as a healthcare professional important to consider ethical dilemmas or implications in the implementation process.

Source / References