Doing Good, Doing Right: The Ethics of Health Communication
Most exemplars in health communication in mass mediated contexts focus on message efficacy and ignore ethical dimensions. Such a worldview is grounded in the assumption that doing good is more important than doing right, as seen in the ascension of teleological beliefs emphasizing outcomes over deontological, duty-based approaches that accentuate the rightness of an action rather than the action’s consequences. The limited discussion about ethics in health communication, however, is confined to philosophical or normative approaches with little systematic efforts in theory-building, empirical research, and practical applications. This chapter, with its foci in ethics and mass mediated communication, extends the health communication literature by applying an ethical lens to better understand the ethical values underpinning health messages by:
1. explicating the values and ethical dimensions such as truth telling, authenticity, respect, equity and social responsibility in mass mediated health messages;
2. connecting message ethicality to message attributes through an analysis of thematic frames, tone, gain-loss framing, emotion appeals, source, and target audience characteristics such as age group, health status, and gender; and
3. advancing an applied model for ethical health communication that includes practical recommendations for practitioners.