Medical Ethics Critical Thinking Samples
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Honesty the Best Policy
The medical profession is expected to uphold respectable standards through honesty as a requirement of their duty. The patient’s health belongs to them, any facts regarding such a private matter as one’s body, and what is going on inside is the most sacred piece of information for a person. Withholding such evidence from the individual whose health is suffering is a complete violation of privacy, going against best practices in medicine. The idea that a doctor would have the arrogance to decide what an individual should be privy to about his or her own healthcare is nothing short of having a “God-complex.”
A perfect example was used in the example given by author John Lantos in the reading material when he mentions the story of the seventeen year old girl with uterine cancer. No one had the right, not her parents or doctors to withhold the full facts regarding the outcome of her cancer treatment, which would leave her infertile (Lantos, 1999). Imagine the horror of this poor woman had the doctors opted to comply by the patient’s father’s request to not divulge the removal of her uterus as one of the method of treatment required in treatment of her cancer. Fortunately, the doctors chose to be honest and the overall effect resulted in things working out ok for her, but primarily because she had the choice to decide what an appropriate course of action for her was.
Legal problems are less likely when honesty is practiced with absolute integrity. When patients are aware of every step of the process in their medical management, the chances of lawsuits are minimized. When consent is required, prior to beginning treatment for health problems that the patient is seeking help for, the risk and liability to doctors and hospitals are covered in writing. There seems no logical reason for the medical community to consider anything other than honesty as the best policy for treatment of patients.
Honesty Not Recommended
The topic of medical ethics is a controversial subject for those in the medical community, as well as members of society. Just as there is a case for honesty, there is also a dispute against “honesty as the best policy.” The statement may initially be jarring because truthfulness appears to display a high standard of character for most people. Lying has been shunned and considered a character flaw, so how does one consider dishonesty in the facts that are shared with patients regarding their health?
I would like to use the example from the book Do We Still Need Doctors?, regarding the case of the nine year old girl who was dying from AIDS. In her case, the truth may have caused excessive distress at a time in her life that she did not need any more hardship. The moral decision by the doctors what to take the legal risk and not share the truth about her diagnosis out of consideration for her peace of mind (Lantos, 1999). The decency of the group of medical professionals considers this young girl’s emotional and mental state over their professional opinion was admirable. The justification was clearly a prime example, of a case against, “honesty as the best policy.”
When deciding what situations warrant omissions of details regarding a patient’s case, several factors are used in the final decision of want is appropriate. Sometimes the admission of truth can upset the patient, bringing down morale and a loss of hope, which is beneficial to any sick individual fighting for improvement. Is it still ethical or moral if the doctors where to have told the nine year old child the truth about her catching AIDS from her dying mother? The reality of her having AIDS, and how she contracted it would have made her final days with her mother and grandmother heartbreaking. Instead, she could enjoy the little bit of comfort she was able to receive through the love of her mother and grand-mother who stayed by her side (Lantos, 1999).
Needless to say, medical ethics are important and extremely challenging for all individuals who explore the philosophy of ethics, as well as the doctors, nurses, and patients who are subjected to how big a role ethics plays in the delivery of treatment.
Lantos, J. D. (1999). Do We Still Need Doctors?: A Physician's Personal Account of Practicing
Medicine Today. Psychology Press.
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