Ethical questions concerning healthcare are becoming more diverse and complex. Innovation represents a major impulse generator in this context. Both rapid technical progress of healthcare modalities and comparably slow growth of dedicated resources available for financing steadily emerging innovations as well as generally growing demand for healthcare services contribute to this dilemma. Consequently, pressure on resource allocation related as well as health policy decision making is growing.
Frequently, medical research based on molecular biology and other interdisciplinary areas touches ethical boundaries - the use of embryonic stem cells, transplantation medicine or genetic diagnostics are just a few examples. The vast technical opportunities of life support and prolongation not only of life but also ailment raise questions concerning euthanasia, quality of life and patient dignity. Based on specific scientific and practical questions our institute combines different ethical branches (business ethics, technology ethics, medical ethics and bioethics). Our aim is to scientifically assess underlying phenomena and support public debate among both the stakeholders in the healthcare sector and the general public by offering specifically ethical discussions, lectures and advanced training.
We also discuss how basic principles, culture and traditions of healthcare and healing have changed repeatedly over the last centuries, taking the background of philosophical, social and political development into account.
One of our research priorities addresses the consequences of increasing cost pressure in the healthcare system. Demand for healthcare services is rapidly growing, while scientific progress steadily produces innovative therapeutic options often characterized by significant budget impact for payors adopted on the healthcare system level. In addition, another factor is increasing expectations of patients and further transformational changes such as a growing unwillingness of healthcare professionals to work overtime without adequate compensation. At the same time, the cash-inflow growth needed to compensate for the additionally needed resources cannot keep pace. Optimal resource allocation, rationing, prioritization: What is still affordable for a solidary society beyond the results of health economic evaluations? How does the relationship between physician and patient change under these conditions? How patient-centric can a healthcare-system be without running into the risk to be expected to repair social and societal shortcomings which are far beyond medical issues? Such considerations are linked up to medical practice in order to find sustainable solutions for healthcare systems. Health economic analysis can provide for transparency. However, a growing number of issues emerge that call for a clear decision on the way forward. This cannot be resolved by economics, economics can only contribute to the decision process.
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