The World Health Organization has released a new guidance note for healthcare providers that highlights the importance of radiation protection and ethically guided care in medical imaging.
In the updated brief, which was released April 13, the WHO sought to refine its existing framework for radiation care to better reflect the changes the field has undergone in recent decades. Due to the increasing use of ionizing radiation, the organization felt its guidelines should be amended to include specific reference to ethics and patient-centered care.
The WHO says the purpose of the update is “to trigger an overdue cultural shift in medical imaging.” This must be achieved by carefully educating providers, patients, and their families about the risks and benefits of ionizing radiation and any medical imaging that uses it.
“The optimal balance between benefits and risks of radiation must be ensured,” said Maria Neira, MD, director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at WHO. “Whenever radiological imaging procedures are offered, only necessary examinations should be performed, and patients should know that they can expect appropriate, prompt and safe services.”
The organization cited a recent increase in the lack of awareness of ethical standards, saying it could put patients at risk. The statement suggests that patient safety in medical imaging has focused on radiation protection rather than medical ethics, although the organization believes that ethics “is an essential component of radiation protection in medicine”.