The main ethical conflicts and issues in this case 2
Set out the main ethical arguments that might be used to criticise or defend the excessive hours typically imposed on doctors and other young professionals. 2
Reflect on reasons given to suggest why the problem of excessive working hours might arise in the medical profession. To what extent are these reasons valid for other jobs and professions? 3
Flexible working patterns are considered a solution to some of the issues raised. Discuss the pros and cons using a stakeholder perspective. What would be your overall judgement? 3
Assess the role of legislation in protecting employee rights in the context of working hours and flexible work patterns. Is it an effective solution to this problem? How does the role of legislation in this situation compare with its role in the context of other employee rights, such as the right to participation and the right to be free from discrimination? 4
Japan and China each have a word for death by overwork “Karoshi and Guolaosi”, recognising suicide as an official, compensable work-related condition. In Europe there are many similar cases like of Sid Watkins but they are not recorded as “work-related deaths”, the problem may not be as bad in the UK but the number of people suffering from work-related stress has more than doubled since 1990. The DTI research found 16 per cent of the workers surveyed showed that 1 in every 6 workers were working 60 hours a week, up from 12 per cent in the year 2000. An American survey concluded that long working hours increased an individual's chances of illness and injury. It noted that for those doing 12 hours a day, there was a 37% increase in risk compared to those working fewer hours (Gillian, 2005).
The objective of this report is to examine the ethical issue and set out the main arguments. I will reflect on why the problem may arise in the medical field and consider the effectiveness of the legislation introduced to improve the excessive working problem.
The main ethical conflicts and issues in this case
Ethics is a moral system of principles that is conducted in a particular group. The big issue is the current workplace situation for young professionals and other workers in Europe. It particularly explores in the area of excessive working hours and shows the regulatory efforts that has been undertaken in order to improve it. In the UK most working hours is 43.6 per week, compared to the average 40.3 hours; also 26 per cent of the workforce is now working more than 48 hours. There is a major risk issue in working long hours consistently including physical and psychological health of workers. This is evidently through considerable research which indicates an increased likelihood for illness and injury among employees working in long-hour schedules. In addition, research has shown that fatigue-related errors made by employees whilst working these long demanding hours can have serious adverse repercussions for public safety and jeopardize others in the society. For example, the case in UK of Doctor Sid Watkins died exhausted by overwork and lack of sleep. Watkins often worked 100 hours a week and died after he injected himself with a drug to help him cope with his workload (Gillian, 2005). This is a highlight of excessive hours among professionals. The DTI research found that 1 in 5 men had visited the doctor because of stress related to work.
Another ethical issue is that excessive working time causes psychological stress, depression and illness (Bixby, 2014). As a result for these concerns introduced the EU Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC. But this new legislation does not restrict to all sectors in the workplace exempting junior doctors, transport and working at sea and many are still working excessive hours. This hasn’t been too effective as many professions had been pressured to falsify their working hours to suggest they…