People who use the Internet for health-related purposes need to be able to judge for themselves that the sites they visit and services they use are credible and trustworthy(1).
People who seek health information on the Internet need to know that products or services are described truthfully and that information they receive is not presented in a misleading way(1,2).
They should clearly distinguish content intended to promote or sell a product, service, or organization from educational or scientific content. The issues should be(1-5)
1. Provide health information that is accurate, easy to understand, and up to date.
2. Provide the information users need to make their own judgments about the health information, products, or services provided by the site.
3. To make wise decisions about their health care, people need and have the right to expect that sites will provide accurate, well-supported information and products and services of high quality.
4. Information and services must be easy for consumers to understand and use.
5. Sites that provide information primarily for educational or scientific purposes should guarantee the independence of their editorial policy and practices by assuring that only the site’s content editors determine editorial content and have the authority to reject advertising that they believe is inappropriate.
6. Consumers have a right to expect that the information they receive is up to date.
7. Individuals need to be able to judge for themselves the quality of the health information they find on the Internet.
8. Respect users’ right to determine whether or how their personal data may be collected, used, or shared.
9. People who use the Internet for health-related reasons have the right to be informed that personal data may be gathered, and to choose whether they will allow their personal data to be collected and whether they will allow it to be used or shared and they have the right to be able to choose, consent, and control when and how they actively engage in a commercial relationship.
10. Sites should not collect, use, or share personal data without the user’s specific affirmative consent.
11. “E-commerce” sites have an obligation to make clear to users when they are about to engage in a commercial transaction and to obtain users’ specific affirmative consent to participate in that commercial transaction.
12. Respect the obligation to protect users’ privacy.
13. People who use the Internet for health-related reasons have the right to expect that personal data they provide will be kept confidential.
14. Personal health data in particular may be very sensitive, and the consequences of inappropriate disclosure can be grave.
15. Respect fundamental ethical obligations to patients and clients.
16. Inform and educate patients and clients about the limitations of online health care.
The Internet can be a powerful tool for helping to meet patients’ health care needs, but users need to understand that it also has limitations. The users have to ensure that organizations and sites with which they affiliate are trustworthy. People need to be confident that organizations and individuals who operate on the Internet undertake to partner only with trustworthy individuals or organizations. The providers should provide meaningful opportunity for users to give feedback to the site and monitor their compliance with the Code of Ethics.
People need to be confident that organizations and individuals that provide health information, products, or services on the Internet take users’ concerns seriously and that sites make good faith efforts to ensure that their practices are ethically sound. Internet health sites should describe their policies for self-monitoring clearly for users, and should encourage creative problem solving among site staff and affiliates.
Keyword : Internet, Health, Ethics