Carol, a 56 year old lady, was going through the menopause and was admitted to the gynaecology ward in hospital in the north west of England with symptoms of extreme lower abdominal pain and problems with urination. Following investigations she was diagnosed with a uterine prolapse which was causing involuntary urine loss and retention, and constipation. A clear explanation of the condition was given by the consultant who recommended that she undergo a hysterectomy to which she agreed because she was in severe pain. While reading the informed consent papers before theatre, Carol made an explicit request that she should not be transfused with blood or blood products even in the case of extensive blood loss following surgery. Her reasons for this were that she belonged to a group of Jehovah’s witnesses, and it was simply against her beliefs.
Ethics can be defined as the philosophical study of the moral value of human conduct and of the rules and principles that should govern it. It is the code of behaviour considered correct especially that of a particular group, individual or profession (Orme-Smith & Spicer, 2001).
The ethics theories of utilitarianism and deontology are most prominent in health care. Utilitarianism, which can be defined as ‘doing the morally correct event in the act of good’ (Winifred Tadd, 1988,) focuses on the consequences of actions, choosing those that do least harm. Linking this in with