Prescribing Viagra in an Ethically Responsible Fashion
Boisaubin, Eugene V.
McCullough, Laurence B.
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 2004 December; 29(6): 739- 749
Sildenafil citrate (Viagra) and other newly released pharmaceuticals that assist erectile dysfunction may be one of the most important categories of drugs released in the past decade. Sildenafil is distinctive because it creates a new therapeutic relationship not only between patient and physician, but also with sexual partner(s). Physicians must first evaluate the patient comprehensively, addressing not only erectile function and sexual performance, but overall physical and mental health. Since the drug does impact others, an expanded model for informed consent needs to be considered. Three models to consider include the public health one, ethically justified limits on confidentiality, and a biopsychosocial one. The biopsychosocial model may be preferred because it expands the patient-physician dyad to directly include others. Physicians also need to distinguish between professional, role-related obligations and personal conscience when treating patients whose sexual beliefs and practices differ from their own. Other ethical issues include inappropriate prescribing over the Internet, dealing with unrealistic patient expectations, and fairness in paying for treatment for sexual conditions in both men and women. With these proposed guidelines, physicians can continue to provide steady, reliable guidance for patients while working with yet another scientific advance in medicine.
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