Good Example Of Legal And Ethical Issues In New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Hospital Case Essay
Although law and ethics are both concerned with behavior, law is easy to pigeon-hole because it is based on duties prescribed by statute or common law. Some examples of the sources of law are the Constitution, statutes, case law and administrative law. Thus, the intentional killing of another is a violation of the law because the statutes and case law say so. On the other hand, ethics constitute behavior that is commonly accepted by society as conduct that is proper (Class Notes 2015). However, both concepts are intertwined and this is aptly captured and illustrated in the Memorial Medical Center case during the days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans as recounted in Sheri Fink’s article “The Deadly Choices at Memorial.”
The distinctions between law and ethics are illustrated in the Memorial case. According to Fink, under New Orleans law to merit a second-degree murder indictment, the jury must be convinced that an accused has ‘a specific intent to kill” (Fink 2009, pp. 20, 24). The reading on law classified this as an instance of criminal law, the purpose of which is to punish those who violated it, deter future occurrence of a similar nature, and give justice to the aggrieved (Class Notes 2015). A finding of such specific intent means a violation of that law. In the case of Anna Pou and the two nurses of the Memorial Medical Center, the jury was not able to make that finding and, hence, the three were not indicted.
Notwithstanding this, the group cannot entirely go scot-free because there are people who did not agree to the actions of the three and of the other personalities involved in the Memorial incident. This is the ethics aspect of the incident when society judges behavior to be unfit and improper because either it does not conform to moral values, it does not serve the public good or interest (Class Notes). Thus, the actions of Pou and company have been subjected to criticisms because ending the life of a person even if it is mercy killing is not acceptable to society and contradicts the goals of healthcare providers, and are, therefore, immoral.
Fink’s article also illustrates the various types of ethical principle. Utilitarian ethics, which looks at the greater good by minimizing suffering and maximizing total benefit (Class Notes), is aptly illustrated by Pou and company. The purported reason for administering the lethal doses to patients was to end both their suffering and those of the healthcare personnel who were already tired and exhausted. The deontological ethical point of view, on the other hand, is illustrated by Dr. Bryant King, who vehemently objected to turning away people from the hospital and Dr. Richard Deichmann who opposed euthanasia because it was not legal. The deontological ethical principle questions the morality of an act on the basis of its observance of rules (Class Notes 2015). Lastly, egocentrism, which makes the self the main motivation or goal of one’s actions (Class Notes 2015), is illustrated by Dr. Cook who abandoned his post to save his son and those who orchestrated the administration of the lethal doses of drugs, because the decision was chiefly motivated by concern for their own safety and well-being. Already tired after and scared of news of looting and other violence around New Orleans, the proponents of the lethal dose administration were probably rearing to escape, to rest and go home.
If Mrs. Emmett Everett is to file a suit, the action can be brought in a state court rather than in a federal court. The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that are devoted only to cases involving federal issues and those involving parties coming from two different states (Class Notes 2015). The cause of action of the suit is the negligent administration of lethal dose of drugs by the defendants that led to the death of Emmett Everett resulting in the mental and emotional suffering of Mrs. Everett. The advantage of negligent tort is that the plaintiff need not prove the additional element of specific intent in the part of the defendants (Class Notes 2015). The specific elements that needs to be proved if the hospital is sued are the following: that it had duty of care over him, that duty was breached when lethal dose of drugs was administered to him by hospital personnel causing his death, and that Mrs. Everett suffered emotional and mental injury because of the death and the circumstances of the death of her husband. A plausible defense the hospital can use is proof of due care in the selection of employees and that Pou and the 2 nurses acted outside of their authority.
Fink, S. (2009). The Deadly Choices at Memorial. Pro Publica. Accessed 20 February 2014. http://www.propublica.org/article/the-deadly-choices-at-memorial-826.
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