Ethical Healthcare Issues
Ethical dilemmas in health care are often the most difficult to navigate. Quite often the life of a person depends on the decision made when a challenge arises. This is certainly the case regarding patients in a permanent vegetative state. These cases have provoked very strong, opposing opinions throughout the medical community. Generating a definitive answer to how a facility handles these situations is extremely important to ensure appropriate ethical policy is followed throughout the care or termination of medical services for a person in a permanent vegetative state. Four ethical principles assist in guiding the ethical conversation: autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice. Autonomy
Preserving a patient’s autonomy is a standard ethical policy for health care providers. Examples of how doctors and facilities protect a patient’s right to independence include Advance Directives, the Patient Self-Determination Act, and HIPAA. “The problem is that vegetative patients are not competent to refuse continued treatment, and there is concern about how best to protect them from treatment that they would probably refuse if they could” (Jennett, 2002, p. 356). A patient who has the unforeseen misfortune of entering into the permanent vegetative state may not have the chance to express their stance through an Advance Directive on how he or she wish to proceed medically, therefore stripping him or her of the right to autonomy. Some patients may have expressed their wishes informally to their family members and loved ones, such as the desire to donate organs when the time comes. If the decision were made to end medical care in a more direct and rapid way, organs would have a better chance of becoming used to help others, which would restore some of the patient’s autonomy (Wade, 2001). Most people would rather donate their organs for the benefit of others, rather than remain in an unconscious state, when given the choice. Unfortunately,...
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