Ethics in America: Does Doctor Know Best?
At what point can a doctor act against the mothers wishes to save an unborn child? Should the court have a say in the final medical decision of a dying patient? These situations and more were discussed by the panel members where it became very obvious that there are no absolutes when making these types of decisions. The root of the argument stems from the lack of a decisive role that is responsible for making decisions when faced with conflicting moral issues. The doctors felt that an agreement with the mother regarding treatment should be followed until, according to their best judgment, she is no longer capable of making the decision on her own. The doctor is put in an ambiguous position to make a final decision since it would seem that his professional opinion is secondary to the choices of the mother. It was argued that a spouse or parent could make the decision at this point, rather than the doctor, especially if it were concerning the care for the as-yet unborn child. However, the rights of the unborn child are called into question if the choice may potentially cause the death of the child. At this point, the doctors looked towards legislative measures to not only protect themselves from legal action, but to establish some sort of precedent to follow. However, even the judge was hesitant to take on the role and stated that it should be judged on a case by case basis. Whether they maintain the agreement with the mother, or alter treatment to save the child, the doctors will always be in conflict when determining where the doctor/patient relationship lies and when it is appropriate to take action against the will of the patient.
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