General Aspects of Medical Ethics
Subject: Medical Ethics
For many years, human beings have been striving to find ways of prolonging and enhancing their lives through extensive researches. It is of paramount importance to note that the endless search for ways to protect lives from being lost is because once a person dies there is no way of coming back to life. Ethics is a code of behaviour that is used for governing the way people behave and relate with one another (Sugarman, p. 12). Every profession has specific rules that are formulated to govern their interactions with their clients and the public in general. Medical ethics refers to the way the health service providers, patients and the public should behave concerning the practice of sustaining human life (Keown, p. 47). This essay aims at identifying the medical ethics that all health practitioners, patients and the public should follow.
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The medical Hippocratic Oath stipulates that human life should be saved at all costs regardless of the expenses, resources or time spent on treatment of the patient. Everybody is entitled to the process of ensuring that the welfare of the patient is given maximum attention (Gert, p. 133). This means that they take full responsibility in case any life is lost due to their errors. In this case, though Mr Brown is suffering from bowel cancer which is a terminal illness and there are no prospects of his recovery and he has also been diagnosed with brain metastases; it is the duty of the medical practitioner (Dr Smith), who is a local hospice palliative care consultant, to ensure that his patient is given all the necessary medical attention to save his life. Even though Mr Brown has already indicated that he does not need any attempts to admit him to a hospital or give him artificial nutrition or hydration should he become weak and unable to feed himself, the doctor must ensure he is kept alive as long as possible. This is voluntary induced euthanasia that contravenes the medical Hippocratic Oath (Snyder, p. 56). If Mr Brown refuses to seek medical help or fails to take drugs, he will be committing suicide while, on the other hand, if he becomes too weak to eat and Dr Smithdenies does not provide him with artificial nutrition or hydration according to his request, it will amount to murder which is punished by law (Or fall, p. 102). Furthermore, Mr Brown’s family is in great concern and offers the best support to him to ensure he survives or dies peacefully. This indicates that he has no total consent over his life as these members of his family are very much concerned about his welfare. However, it is logical that Mr Brown’s wish is granted as there is no prospect of his recovery and the medication he receives subjects him to worse conditions. The family is spending a lot of money on maintaining his deteriorating health which may plunge them into debts or closure of their businesses and sale of some of their assets to raise the funds required. The time wasted by his wife and children and two sisters one of whom has to travel from the United States of America to visit him should have been spent doing other useful activities. The emotional and psychological suffering they are undergoing is much more than the pain they will feel if he is allowed to die (Foley, p. 37). Furthermore, Mr Brown is feeling great pain from the bowel cancer and the swelling on his head and he has to be given very strong pain relievers. Ignorance has paid a great price as Mr Brown is given the wrong prescription by the medical staff of the hospice. This leads to more risks to Mr Brown’s health as he becomes more drowsy and confused to an extent of losing his speech and responds through pressing the GP’s hand once or twice to indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the questions being asked. The pharmaceutical company ignored the fact that all drugs should be properly labelled for easy identification while the pharmacist who dispensed the drugs had a mislabelled box that confused. Ignorance is not an excuse to break the law and so all these people are expected to face the law (Judson, p. 78). Medical Ethics advocates for Transparency and Confidentiality regarding the health conditions and response to medication to the patient and family members (Gorsuch, p. 122). In this case, when the nurse discovered that Mr Brown has been given the wrong medication that contributes to his present condition, she failed to inform the family members of what had been happening. This is an error of commission that may contribute to the occurrence of the same mistake again. By withholding the cause of Mr Brown’s continued drowsiness and confusion, Dr Jones is risking the patient’s life. His speculation is correct as Mr Brown is suffering from dehydration, confusion and drowsiness due to the use of the wrong prescription of antiepileptic drugs and the deliberate withdrawal to give him the recommended steroids. . Many doctors have put their interests first before the interest of the patients and this has led to further complications in the health sector. When Dr Jones is called by Middleton to diagnose Mr Brown, he discovers that the patient has been given the wrong medication meant for the treatment of epilepsy. DrJones advises them that the patient be given intravenous rehydration and dexamethasone which are available at the hospice. However, when Dr Smith is informed about this he advises them that the patient be taken to his hospital for rehydration and stabilization. This shows that he does not only want to get the attention of patients but also wants his name to continue gaining fame and his hospital to develop as a result of the sales he makes when dispensing drugs. Why should he demand that the patient be brought to his hospital while Dr Jones is diagnosing him and the same drugs to stabilize Mr Brown’s condition are available at the hospice? (Freeman, p. 183). By requesting that the patient be moved to the hospital. Dr Smith is ignoring and contravening the Non-Maleficence Ethics that advocates for medical practitioners not to do any harm to the patient. In this case, anything may happen to Mr Brown on the way to the hospital, for instance, his confusion and drowsiness may lead him to be knocked down by a vehicle leading to further injuries and complications. People suffer from various conditions, infections, injuries and diseases that make them seek medical attention (Humphrey, p. 79). Some diseases and infections are assumed by society to be a result of an individual’s lack of self-control and discipline. People suffering from these diseases are usually perceived to be on the fringes of morality and subjected to great shame and many people will avoid them (Terman, p. 45). Due to these reasons, the confidentiality of all information shared between the medical health service providers and the patients or their family members should be kept as top secret and no one should disclose the information to the unauthorized party due to the effects associated with it. The principle of Confidentiality has been violated as the condition of Mr Brown is exposed to a third party who was not initially concerned with handling the patient.
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Autonomy is an ethical issue that gives the patient the right to decide the type of treatment that he/she should be given and the ability to refuse treatment that the doctor prescribes (Wanzer 70). However, in some cases, this principle can not work since the choice limits the scope of the doctors while doing their work. For instance, most children do not like injections and taking tablets due to fear of the pain associated with their body being pricked and the bitter taste of most drugs. The principle of Autonomy does not apply here since a child cannot decide which treatment is best for it. Furthermore, children do not have any knowledge on how treatment works or any alternatives for the treatment of any disease (Quill, p. 29). Patients (who are very sick to the extent of not knowing what is happening around them, the senile, the very old and people in a coma) do not have the mental ability to decide what type of medication will suit them. However, in this case, Mr Brown demands that he should be an outpatient and not be admitted to any hospital for the treatment of his disease. He also demands that when he becomes too sick and unable to eat the doctors should not give him any artificial nutrition or hydration aimed at trying to prolong his life. He already informed everyone of his intention to be left to die when the time comes but this becomes a major conflicting issue in the roles played by the doctors. They are under no obligation to let any patient die while they can save their lives. Non-Maleficence is an ethical guide that stipulates that doctors should do all that is within their ability to ensure that patients’ lives are saved at all costs (Ball, p. 36). This means that death should be avoided regardless of the requests and desires of the patients. It is however conflicting with the ethics of Autonomy that states otherwise. In this case, the doctors are not supposed to deny Mr Brown artificial feeding or treatment if he is too weak to feed himself. The fact that he has become too weak due to his negligence to take the prescribed steroids subjects him to further health complications. His breathing has become irregular and he seems to lose his ability to eat or drink due to the fulfilment of his request by the doctors and family members. In this case, all who are concerned with the withdrawal of medication are in the real sense committing a crime which is either murder or manslaughter and if found guilty, they are subjected to serving long term in jail or life imprisonment. However, some countries have legalised euthanasia if at all the reason for it is justified. In these situations, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the patient deserves to die peacefully (Pence, p. 127). These grounds may include the need to save on the costs of treatment. While Mr Brown considers that his medication is stopped should his sickness continue, his wife, children and sisters continue to visit in hospital regularly and this means they have to spend money in terms of travelling to see him. Mr Brown knows very well that he is going to die and so decides not to make his family incur further expenses in maintaining his health. He advises the doctor not to give him artificial feeding and rehydration if he is unable to feed himself. According to him, survival through the administration alleviates his pain and suffering and this makes him think that he should die as soon as possible rather than endure the long and painful suffering (Lewis, p. 71). In addition, his refusal to take drugs means that there will be enough drugs to take care of the rest of the patients who have prospects of recovering rather than using them on him knowing very well he will die very soon. The life support machine that is used for feeding very sick patients and which Mr Brown advises the doctors not to use on him will save a lot of costs and will be used on other patients who may recover when such intensive care is provided to them (Hope, p. 41). This means that those who have hopes for recovering are given enough time to be attended by the doctors instead of wasting their time treating him. It should also be noted that Mr Brown’s refusal to be admitted to any hospital but instead to be an outpatient will contribute greatly to the availability of bed space in the local hospice. This will also help in reducing his expenses while at the hospital since there will be no admission and ward fees that are usually very high (Jonsen, p. 159). Mr Brown considers this voluntary active euthanasia as the best way of relieving pain permanently since after he dies he will never feel pain again. Unlike the antibiotics and steroids he is given to alleviate his suffering and headaches, he will not have another chance of suffering again. Finally, it is the most honourable form of exit from life if at all every member of his family will agree with his decision(Beauchamp, p. 243). This means that he will have enough time to prepare for his death even though he has not written a will; the time left before he finally succumbs to death will allow him to make his last decisions. Given the fact that many medical ethics bar the doctors from assisting the patients with voluntary active euthanasia, it is very prudent that people’s interests be considered before making any judgements. However, it becomes unethical when an individual decides to terminate his life without putting into consideration the feelings and needs of other family members, children and relatives. This makes us conclude that people do not have the sole right over their lives as other members of society depend on them for their emotional and physical survival. It is very advisable to have a sick person hanging on a life support machine rather than having a dead body since miracles do happen and one day a cure for the disease may be discovered. Finally, life, in general, comprises emotional and physical suffering and no one should despair and decide to end their lives but everyone should have hope for a brighter future. Works Cited Ball, Howard. At Liberty To Die: The Battle for Death with Dignity in America. New York: N. Y.U., 2012. Print. Beauchamp, Tom L. Principles of Biomedical Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print. Foley, Prince. The Law of Life and Death. New Jersey: Harvard University Press, 2011. Print. Freeman, John Mark. Tough Decisions: Cases in Medical Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print. Gert, Bernard. 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