Ethical Health Care Issues
HCS/545-Health Law and Ethics
September 22, 2014
Ethical Health Care Issues
Healthcare ethics involves making well researched and considerate decisions about medical treatments, while taking into consideration a patient’s beliefs and wishes regarding all aspects of their health. The healthcare industry, above any other, has a high regard for the issues surrounding the welfare of their patients. This power over a patient’s wellbeing creates a mandatory need for all healthcare organizations to develop an ethics committee. The committee’s goal is to establish a written code of ethics that details the policies and procedures that determine proper conduct for all employees. There are many ethical issues that may arise in regards to a patient’s healthcare. Treating patients with certain religious beliefs pose important ethical issues in the field of healthcare. This paper will describe an ethical health care issue concerning refusal of care, such as a blood transfusion. It will cover the four ethical principles as they apply to healthcare providers and patients’ rights. It is important that health care workers have a rudimentary understanding of Jehovah’s Witnesses philosophy about blood transfusion so that as professionals we can be proactive in their management. Ethical Health Care Issue
In all areas of practice, physicians come into contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses and their refusal to accept blood transfusion, even when it means saving their lives. The Jehovah’s Witness faith creates some challenges for physicians caring for its members. The ethical principles of autonomy versus beneficence come into conflict when a physician believes a transfusion is in the best interest of the patient, but the patient refuses. Legal precedence provides a backdrop. In addition, Panico, Jenq, & Brewster (2011) article states, there was a case involving a woman who had consented for examination of a fibroid tumor under anesthesia, but withheld consent for removal of the tumor. While sedated, she underwent resection of the tumor that led to complications. She sued and the judge ruled in her favor, establishing the notion that every human being should have the right to decide what is done with his or her own body. Moreover, this premise gave any individual the right to refuse treatment if he or she understands the risks; a Jehovah’s Witness has the right to refuse a blood transfusion. This ruling set a precedent for informed consent. In 1990, the Canadian case of Malette v Shulman described an emergency department physician who gave a blood transfusion to an unconscious patient who was in hypovolemic shock. Per report, the patient had a signed wallet card that identified her as a Jehovah’s Witness, although it was undated and unwitnessed. The wallet card, is considered a legal document which, stated that she did not want to receive a blood transfusion under any circumstances (Lantos, Matlock, & Wendler, 2011). Furthermore, when the patient’s daughter arrived and asked that the transfusion be stopped, the physician did not comply. The physician argued that there was no way of knowing if the patient had changed her mind in the minutes before the car accident and thus he was duty bound to save her life (Lantos, Matlock, & Wendler, 2011). The court found the physician guilty of battery. Although it is easy to draw on emotion to argue against the ruling in this case, the verdict has not been overturned. This case illustrates the current teaching to today’s physicians, who are taught to respect patient’s autonomy and preferences for their own bodies (Lantos, Matlock, & Wendler, 2011). Jehovah’s Witness have been known to refuse transfusions with packed red blood cells to treat their life-threatening diseases. Medical professionals must consider patient has autonomy of thought, intention, and action when making decisions regarding health care procedures. To...
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