50 Controversial Topics in Medicine: Laws, Policies, and Practises

Why is it important to debate medical laws and practices?

Around the world, there have been (and are) many ways for medical professionals to tackle common ailments. In eastern countries, like Japan, Taiwan, and India, it is commonplace for people to use natural medicines to treat medical issues. There is a long tradition and culture to use herbal remedies to help heal or treat less serious health problems. That said, access to more advanced medical procedures is also available and is provided alongside commonly referred to as “alternative” or “traditional” medicine.

Given the above, it is important to question some practices because they might be rooted in culture, tradition, and so may not be entirely viable as a pathway to wellness and medical treatment. The opposite may also be true, however, where traditional remedies are an option to treat ailments. Therefore, having a questioning mindset is useful to ensure

Aside from the above, throughout history, there have been a number of questionable medical treatments that were later seen as damaging and counterintuitive to the needs of the day. One of the most unsavory is the forced sterilization of women and men across the world in an attempt to “manage populations”. In the United States, many thousands of women and men were prevented from having families because they were judged to be “unfit” to reproduce.

Forced sterilization

In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, by a vote of 8 to 1, to uphold a state’s right to forcibly sterilize a person considered unfit to procreate. The case, known as Buck v. Bell, centered on a young woman named Carrie Buck, whom the state of Virginia had deemed to be “feebleminded.”

Author Adam Cohen tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that Buck v. Bell was considered a victory for America’s eugenics movement, an early 20th century school of thought that emphasized biological determinism and actively sought to “breed out” traits that were considered undesirable.

“There were all kinds of categories of people who were deemed to be unfit [to procreate],” Cohen says. “The eugenicists looked at evolution and survival of the fittest, as Darwin was describing it, and they believed ‘We can help nature along, if we just plan who reproduces and who doesn’t reproduce.’ “

All told, as many as 70,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized during the 20th century. The victims of state-mandated sterilization included people like Buck who had been labeled “mentally deficient,” as well as those who who were deaf, blind and diseased. Minorities, poor people and “promiscuous” women were often targeted.



Forced sterilization of women as discrimination Public Health Reviews
The Long, Disgraceful History of American Attacks on Brown and Black Women’s Reproductive Systems The Intercept
The Supreme Court Ruling That Led To 70,000 Forced Sterilizations NPR
Eugenics and Involuntary Sterilization: 1907-2015 NIH Gov

General Medical Topics

1. This house believes that there is a clear link between poverty and health. [This debate is regarding the factors between income and the healthcare people can receive. For countries like the UK, where healthcare is largely free at the point of use, there are many studies that indicate that healthcare is still linked to income]

2. A paid-only healthcare system, just like in the US, is the only way to provide quality care for everyone.

3. What drives the cost of healthcare in the United States? (Be aware that the US spends more on healthcare much more than European countries but has worse health outcomes. See the graph below as an example).



4.  Should there be an opt-in or opt-out donor system? [Reading material: Organ donation: is an opt-in or opt-out system better?]

5. Homeless people should be given free medical treatment.


6. Homeopathy should be treated as a first line treatment for common ailments.

7. Should unconventional forms of medicine be part of national healthcare?

8. Should uninsured people be denied medical treatment?

9. Should there be criminal responsibility for medical errors?

10. Should doctors be allowed to promote particular medical products?

11. Should hospitals provide a free translator to non-English speaking patients?

Controversial Topics in Medicine: Laws and Policies

12. Should assisted dying be legal? [Interesting article, Ex-England cricket captain backs calls for assisted dying]

13. Should abortion be legal?

14. Should surrogate pregnancy be normalised or only used for health reasons?

15. Is womb transplantation a good alternative to surrogate pregnancy?

16. Should people with mental health issues be treated in or outside of the community?

17. Should euthanasia be legalised?

18. Should people be refused organ transplantation for leading an unhealthy lifestyle? [Interesting article: Who deserves a new liver? Anyone who needs one]

19. Should the organ transplantation committee consider the patient’s personal details (marital status, children, accomplishments, personal qualities) when choosing what person will receive an organ?

20. Should doctors be required to report the cases of organ trafficking (when a person has a needed organ, even though he did not get it is on the national list)?

21. Should a doctor be able to provide medical care to a minor despite their parent’s wishes?

Essay Topics on Medical Research and Testing

34. Should genetic engineering on people be be allowed? [This topic is related to designer babies]

35. Can medical research ever become a threat to human life?

36. Should computer engineers work to make computers displace doctors? What can be the potential benefits/drawbacks?

37. Should animal testing remain legal?

38. Should there be any limits to medical tests on humans?

39. Should more funding be allocated to practical research projects, or to projects that will have longer term health benefits?

40. Should scientists research options for people to become immortal? [Interesting video: A roadmap to end aging TED Talk]

41. If the research was able to provide a solution to one healthcare issue, what should it be? (a cure from cancer, AIDS, infertility, creation of organs from artificial materials/with the help of cloning, etc.)

Essay Topics on Policies and Practices That Affect Health of Society as a Whole

22. Should marijuana (or Class B and Class C drugs) be legalized?

23. What are the effects of TV shows concerned with diets and losing weight? (Do they motivate and inspire others or promote body image ideal and the related issues?)

24. Do TV shows portraying cosmetic surgery make people more inclined to refer to it? If yes, should they be banned? [Interesting article: Remembering The Swan – the noughties’ most controversial and offensive reality TV series, and Channel 4 cosmetic surgery show called ‘exploitative’ by MPs]

25. Should TV commercials advertising alcohol, fast food, and sugary products be banned?

26. Should the state regulate social media use to prevent its negative impact on mental health and social media addiction?

27. Should there be state regulation of fast food chains?

28. How should the issue of obesity be treated: as a personal problem or as a public concern?

29. Can exercise worsen health?

30. Should birth control pills be available from your local pharmacy?

31. Who should decide whether to place an elderly in the elderly center: an elderly person himself/herself, children, healthcare specialist?

32. Should the state refuse to import the products, which were manufactured/obtained at the cost of someone’s health? (This relates to ethical supply chain, using ethica standards for labour, paying adequate wages, boycotts due to poltical disagreements)

33. Should the state do more or less to make people lead a healthy lifestyle?

Consider whether such intrusion into private lives is appropriate. Consider what the government can and should do, such as prohibit smoking and drinking under the age of 18 or in certain areas, prohibit advertisements and censor films that promote an unhealthy lifestyle or unhealthy body image standards, create more easily accessible and appealing recreation zones, educate people on the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle, etc., or invest the money in the economy, as a higher economic level is linked to better health.

The Impact of the Pandemic on Doctors and Healthcare

42. Assess the decision of some countries to use undergraduate nursing students for Covid-19 response.

43. Is quarantine an effective measure? How to balance the need to halt the spread of the virus and the need for employment and socialization?

44. Has Covid-19 risen the need for global coordination of healthcare? How will respective policies change the national healthcare systems?

45. Do we need a dedicated global agency that would deal with Covid-19 and future pandemics?

46. Should doctors that leave their jobs not to deal with Covid-19 be not allowed to work in medicine again?

47. The impact of Coronavirus on a specific vulnerable population: the poor, homeless, people with mental illnesses, the elderly etc.

48. Issues surrounding vaccine testing. Is the French doctors’ suggestion to test vaccines in Africa a sound strategy or an act of racism? [This is related to preconceptions of where diseases originate and for what reasons]

49. Doctors have the highest mortality rate from Covid-19. What are the ways to decrease it?

50. Has Coronavirus given a boost to remote medicine? Is it a viable alternative to traditional consultations?

Read more

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