Ethical Issues in Healthcare Marketing – Medical Ethics Example

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"Ethical Issues in Healthcare Marketing" is a good example of a paper on medical ethics.   Quinn (2008) in his article, “ Advertising Gone too far” brings out the growing trend of unethical behavior in healthcare marketing. As Quinn observed, a decade ago, though hospitals had fully functional marketing departments, their services were limited to PR and fundraising with issues related to quality measures, awards among other variables not featuring in these adverts. Hospitals were treated as non-profit organizations with any adverts thoroughly scrutinized to remove any errors. However, Quinn observed that today; healthcare advertising has become a vibrant business with digital platforms such as televisions and internet predominantly used to advertise services in a profit based-competition, which leaves the consumer confused regarding the extent of deception in these adverts.

Quinn noted that adverts are regularly defying the odds in offering deceptive information with the authorities being passive in acting unless pressure is mounted for investigation in the allegations. This makes consumers lack quality and helpful information, which erodes the gains made by advertising and regulatory rules as Quinn observes. In other words, an increase in these adverts has led to the infiltration of unethical practices in the healthcare sector.

The deceptive messages seek to deceive consumers with an aim of amplifying the reputation of the organization in the market notwithstanding the effects of the misinformation to the public. Quinn, as a healthcare marketing expert, she makes a credible observation that has eaten into a problem that has eroded the credibility of healthcare marketing around the globe. The result is the infiltration of unethically exaggerated information to the public regarding healthcare-related services and products.             The American Marketing Association states the ethical standard of marketing as fairness, honesty, and avoidance of any point of conflict that would promote the interests of the organization more than those of the consumer (Nelson & Campfied, 2008).

The basic tenet in ethical marketing practices is providing information that is not deceptive or misleading the Ethics manual in the healthcare sector states that any adverts become unethical when its claims are unsubstantiated, are deceptive and misleading (Nelson & Campfied, 2008). As a result, any unethical advert disseminates deceptive information to the public, which makes them use wrong information that endangers consumerism of such information.

Largely, such unethical advertising propagates the image that healthcare facilities are profit-based organizations like other organizations in the market, which leads to erosion of the public’ s confidence. For instance, in e-marketing, there is a growing level of mistrust between organizations and consumers. Consumers do question the reliability of the information content provided in most of these websites, a situation that erodes the dignity of the healthcare profession (Chandra, Sikula & Paul, 2004).           Healthcare marketers have an advantage in that they have to use a well-developed marketing campaign that involves the alignment of the mission of the organizations and the interests of the community that they have to serve, which makes it possible to articulate the need of consumers and fulfill them (Nelson & Campfied, 2008).

Moreover, while other markets are concerned with the fiscal implications of their marketing activities, healthcare marketers target more at quality service delivery and customer satisfaction. However, one of the limitations is that marketers are faced with a daunting task to clear deceptive information disseminated unethically and have to work in with tight financial constraints; their work is not profit-oriented.

Unlike in private organizations where the marketers have huge resources at their disposal, marketers in public healthcare facilities work in constraints and bureaucracies that limit their flexibility in their operations (Chatterjee & Srinivasan, 2013). Quinn offers a number of laws and regulations that guide and influence healthcare marketing in curtailing unethical practices. The American             Marketing Association regulations and Lanham Act are some of the regulations that ensure the ethical dissemination of information in the healthcare sector.

These regulations sustain a trend where practices deliver truthful information and quality services to consumers. To sustain ethical practices, there is a need to formulate a holistic approach to enforce regulations in healthcare marketing. For instance, the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) enables consumers and provides to hold insurance companies responsible for their actions by ensuring consumers take charge of their healthcare (Lachman, 2012). Analyzing any adverts for exaggeration and deceptive unsubstantiated information may also help in curtailing unethical marketing.             Quinn's argument about advertisement going too far captures the current healthcare market where deception and exaggeration are the order of the day, which leaves the consumer more confused than informed.

However, Quinn assertion that only national advertisers catch the eye of the Federal Trade Commission in case of unethical practices while the smaller adverts are let off the hook questions the ability of FTC in regulating such advertisements. FTC has representatives throughout the country and may detect any unethical practices by even smaller advertisers and act on them. Consequently, there would be no need of approaching a powerful congressional representative or senator to push through the issue for action.           Response The interviewee erred in asserting that marketing healthcare products are just like marketing any other product in the market.

There are a number of differences that make marketing healthcare products and services different from marketing other products, requiring different approaches that may not be relevant in marketing other products.           One, marketing of healthcare products has to be done utmost honesty, which requires the marketer to give truthful and substantiated information, which may not be a requirement in marketing other products.

For instance, in marketing hotels or airlines, marketers are allowed to exaggerate their services to entice potential customers to buy the products. However, healthcare-based products require truthful, substantiated and unexaggerated information to ensure the consumer makes the right decision in promoting quality health. Currently, there is an increase in suspicion between online marketers and consumers as the former embraces exaggeration and deception in marketing their products (Chandra, Sikula & Paul, 2004), a case that is not common in marketing other products.           Secondly, in most cases, marketing hotels or airlines is a profit-motivated practice.

On the contrary, the marketing of healthcare products is usually not meant for profit but for improving the health and life of consumers. The marketing effort has to promote the use of effective care only necessary based on evidence from clinical outcomes, unlike other products that are based on interest and quality (Nelson & Campfield, 2012).           Lastly, health marketers have to operate within several strict codes and regulations that guide the marketing activity unlike in marketing other products where marketers enjoy fewer limitations and have major freedoms.

Healthcare marketers have to work close to market regulators such as the American Marketing Association, the American College of Healthcare Executives among other regulating bodies that guide the marketing process (Quinn, 2008). However, in marketing hotels and airlines, marketers are free to advertise and market their products as far as the relevant bodies have certified such products, especially with regard to foodstuffs.     Therefore, the interviewee erred in remarking that marketing healthcare products were similar to marketing other products such as hotels, airlines or foodstuffs.


Chandra, A., Sikula Sr., A., Paul III, D. "Ethical considerations in the marketing of e-health products." Journal Of Medical Marketing, 4.2, (2004): 110-118

Chatterjee, C & Srinvasan, V. (2013). Ethical issues in health care sector in India. IIMB Management Review, 25(1), 49-62.

Lachman, C. D. (2012).Ethical Challenges in the Era of Health Care Reform. Ethics, Law and Policy. MEDSURG Nursing, 21(4), 244-250.

Nelson, W. A. & Campfield, J. (2008).The Ethics of Hospital Marketing. Healthcare Executive, 44-45.

Quinn, C. (2008). Advertising Gone to Far? Marketing Health Services, 28(4), 20-23.

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