Electromagnetic radiation in the form of radio waves, UV light, X-rays and Gamma rays is really important to modern medical techniques. EM radiation is used for diagnosis through imaging where images range from
PET scans where radioactive tracers are used to display blood vessels to
modern NMR scans which can provide detailed three-dimensional images of internal body structures.
Another example is radiotherapy, the use of high frequency EM radiation for treatment of unwanted growths within the body such as cancerous tumours. Or the use of irradiation to sterilise medical instruments before use.
However the more sophisticated scanners are seriously expensive to build and use.
ETHICAL ISSUES INVOLVED
The central purpose of medical physics is beneficial, to treat the sick - apply all those measures as required for the benefit of the sick - is part of any doctors' ancient Hippocratic Oath.Text equivalent:
Do no harm
Over-exposure to x-rays can damage cells in the tissues of both the person being scanned and the person operating the equipment. Strict safety routines should be followed to protect the medical staff from repeated exposure.Text equivalent:
Value of life
When a medical procedure costs a lot of money, at what point does it cost too much? Perhaps the same money could be used to treat many other patients who’s medical needs cost less. How do we decide what is a reasonable amount of money to pay for a medical treatment?Text equivalent:
Both action and inaction have consequences
In radiotherapy, it is very difficult to avoid doing some damage to tissues surrounding the tumour. There may be unavoidable health problems that result from this damage. However, the alternative may be death from the cancer.
Fresh food can sometimes be irradiated to delay the processes of decay and therefore increasing its shelf life. Find out more here. Would you eat irradiated fruit?