2022 GS4 Answer

Q. Online methodology is being used for day-to-day meetings, institutional approvals in the administration and for teaching and learning in education sector to the extent telemedicine in the health sector is getting popular with the approvals of the competent authority. No doubt it has advantages and disadvantages for both the beneficiaries and system at large. Describe and discuss the ethical issues involved in the use of online method particularly to vulnerable section of society.

Question from UPSC Mains 2022 GS4 Paper

Model Answer: 

Ethical Issues in the Use of Online Methods for Vulnerable Populations

The use of online methods has become widespread in various fields such as administration, education, and healthcare, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as with any technology, the use of online methods raises ethical concerns. These ethical issues can be more pronounced in the context of vulnerable populations.

Access to Technology

One of the primary ethical concerns with online methods is the issue of access. Not everyone has access to technology, especially those from lower socio-economic backgrounds or in remote areas. This can result in a digital divide, where certain groups are left behind due to lack of access to technology. In the context of vulnerable populations, this can exacerbate existing inequities and further disadvantage these groups.

Privacy and Confidentiality

Online methods also raise concerns about privacy and confidentiality. For example, when conducting telemedicine appointments, patients may be hesitant to discuss sensitive information over the internet or phone. Additionally, there is always a risk of unauthorized access to sensitive information, which can result in harm to vulnerable populations.

Informed Consent

Informed consent is an essential ethical principle in healthcare, which requires that patients fully understand the risks and benefits of any medical treatment before consenting to it. In the context of telemedicine, obtaining informed consent may be more challenging, as patients may not fully understand the implications of online consultations.

Digital Literacy

Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, may not be as digitally literate as younger generations. This can result in difficulties in using online methods and understanding the risks associated with them. Additionally, there may be a power imbalance between healthcare providers and patients, which can result in patients feeling pressured to use online methods.

Quality of Care

Online methods can also affect the quality of care provided to vulnerable populations. For example, patients with disabilities may require in-person consultations to receive adequate care. Additionally, online methods may not be suitable for certain medical conditions or procedures.

In conclusion, while online methods have many benefits, they also raise significant ethical concerns, particularly in the context of vulnerable populations. To mitigate these concerns, it is essential to ensure that everyone has equal access to technology, that privacy and confidentiality are maintained, that informed consent is obtained, and that quality of care is not compromised.

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