Ethics pertains to the distinction between right and wrong based on the principles of law, culture, conscience and religion. It critically reviews each action in terms of its effect on an individual, as well as on the society. It every profession, there are certain ethical principles that have to be recognized as professionals proceed in performing in their own field of specialization.
The field of biomedical engineering involves the application of concepts from both engineering and medical in order to generate innovative techniques that would improve human health. Biomedical engineering is thus responsible in designing new systems that would ultimately advance medical methods in diagnosis and treatment.
There are several specialty domains in the field of biomedical engineering. Bioinstrumentation involves the study of electronic devices that are applicable for diagnosis, as well as treatment, of medical disorders. Advances in computer technologies have arisen in the last few decades and this significant improvement can also be instrumental in the creation of more powerful and sensitive devices for the medical field.
Two of the most revolutionary instrumentations in biomedical engineering are the imaging systems of computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Another area of biomedical engineering is biomechanics, which involves the investigation of motion and flow of materials within the human body.
This area also examines the dynamics of chemicals and small devices across biological structures. Examples of products generated from biomechanics are the artificial heart and hip, which are commonly introduced during surgical procedures to pertinent patients.
Biomedical engineering also covers the area of biomaterials, which involves the study of cells and tissues that could be employed for implantation. There are particular types of cells that have been found to be useful in replacing damaged or dysfunctional tissues or organs (Liao 117). In addition, there are also certain polymers and other materials that could be used as implants.
The area of systems physiology deals with techniques that could precisely described biomedical activities in the human body. For example, the biochemical pathways that are involved in metabolism could be intricately described through the field of systems physiology.
Clinical engineering is a subfield that deals with instrumentations employed in hospitals, creating faster machines through the design of interfaces for computers that could handle medical data and other information. Rehabilitation engineering pertains to the field of biomedical engineering that deals with aspects physical injury and rehabilitation.
It is thus important to understand that the field of biomedical engineering aims to improve medical technologies in order to ultimately improve healthcare services and human health. Unfortunately, no standard rules or guidelines are currently in place for the field of biomedical engineering and this is mostly because there is still a need to universally recognition this profession.
One reason for the delay in its recognition is that the field itself is a conglomeration of different areas of specialization, thus the review and design of a general code of ethics may be more difficult to conduct unlike other unique profession. One factor that influences the slow movement towards creating a code of ethics for biomedical engineering is the confusion that is associated with the overlap between the two professional areas of medicine and engineering.
The field of medicine follows the Hippocratic dogma of doing no harm to a patient and this code of ethics may be slightly modified if it has to be integrated with the field of engineering, which mostly deals with the science of materials.
Given this scenario, there are a couple of efforts that have been conducted by biomedical engineering professionals in order to uphold ethical standards while waiting for the universal code of ethics to be released.
The Biomedical Engineering Society, a professional group created in Illinois, USA in 1968, actively promotes concepts of this field at the global level, as well as serves as a substrate for the dissemination of research reports through two journals, namely Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering and Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
This forty-year old society created a Code of Ethics in 2004, which describes voluntary guidelines that professionals of biomedical engineers could uphold. The term voluntary was implicitly included in the Code of Ethics in order to explain that these guidelines are not required to be followed but abiding by these rules could be beneficial to their profession.
The Biomedical Engineering Society Code of Ethics of 2004 is divided into four categories, as pertinent to the activity that each biomedical engineer may be personally involved in. As a professional biomedical engineer, the Code describes that this individual should apply his knowledge, as well as skills, on this particular field to improve human health and safety.
In addition, this professional must strive to boost morale of the profession by maintaining competence, as well as honor in the field. During research, the biomedical engineer should comply with any pre-existing guidelines that have been created by the law, the institution or the government, which also includes recognition of rights of both human and animal subjects, as well as the responsibilities as a member of the society. The Code of Ethics also describes that any researches conducted by biomedical engineers should be accurate and appropriately published for the rest of the profession and society to read.
In terms of health care, the Code of Ethics states that a biomedical engineer should responsibly act in their field of profession, recognizing patient rights, as well as confidentiality. In addition, the cost, accessibility and distribution of their work, in association with the improvement of healthcare services, should always be considered.
The Code of Ethics also includes a clause that is applicable for training of biomedical engineers. These professionals should recognize and honor their roles in training students in this field by educating these individuals on the proper conduct when conducting research, as well as reporting their experimental results.