Health care involves many moral considerations which arise as a result of advances in medical knowledge and technology. While doctors and other health care professionals must deal with clinical issues during their workday, there may also be social or ethical considerations related to patient treatment or allocating resources in healthcare organizations that raise morality questions. Questions surrounding what constitutes healthcare morality often depend upon normative ethical theories or methods available for decision-making regarding moral decision-making processes.

Beneficience is one of the key principles defining health care ethics, with doctors’ oath to promote patient health being one of its foundations. Beneficence requires physicians to promote the wellbeing of both their patients and society at large and treat them with respect and dignity – two principles at the core of modern healthcare delivery systems.

Nonmaleficence is another foundational tenet that should underpin health care practice. This principle states that it is the physician’s duty to inflict no unnecessary suffering on his or her patients and refrain from performing abortion or euthanasia, something central to Hippocrates’ Oath of Hippocrates.

Health care morality issues can be complex. Utilitarianism provides a framework for determining what constitutes right or wrong in any given situation based on the notion that what ultimately matters in each circumstance is the amount of happiness or benefits generated for all those involved. For instance, utilitarianism might apply in cases involving hospice patients receiving experimental drugs which will extend their lives by several months but cause serious side effects.

Virtue ethics and deontology are also frequently utilized when making ethical decisions in healthcare ethics, with virtue ethics emphasizing character traits such as honesty and compassion when making ethical decisions; deontology takes a more formal and stricter approach, by scrutinizing professional health care personnel codes of conduct.

American society generally agrees that some form of healthcare delivery system is necessary. Some advocate that the government provide healthcare as a right or public good; others prefer leaving distribution up to free market forces alone; those who consider healthcare to be an entitlement typically favor free market systems while those who believe it should come from government tend to favor liberalized, distributive justice-minded approaches that stress distributive equity.