BP#4: The Doctor’s Dilemma

Click here to read the full (lengthy) article.

Medicine as a science utilizes a method of study that focuses on consequences of actions, on causes and effects in nature. These facts about how bodies heal, or how drugs work, are sometimes confused with medicine’s ethical imperative to bring about good consequences for the patient, or at least reduce harmful consequences. Concerns tend to arise when there is friction between the facts and values.

The article’s claim? “For centuries, it was assumed that a good decision ethically in medicine was the same as a good clinical decision.” This translates to life-or-death related situations can result in more death-related outcomes, all because it doesn’t clinically make for a good decision. The integrity and moral code is pushed aside as the life of a human is based on whether or not “clinically” they should be saved, when in reality, doctor’s know the technology can do it.

This topic can be tied into consequentialism in that doctors perform an action (saving a life or not) that yields the highest ratio of good to bad results. Furthermore, attractions of utilitarianism justifies conventional moral wisdom: a doctor not intervening in saving the life of someone who suffered a heart attack is wrong because that makes people (very) unhappy.

To dive further into the consequentialism attribution to this article, consequentialism is defined as holding that the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right act (or omission from acting) is one that will produce a good outcome, or consequence. In an extreme form, the idea of consequentialism is commonly encapsulated in the saying, “the end justifies the means”, meaning that if a goal is morally important enough, any method of achieving it is acceptable.

The “goal” for doctor’s in this dilemma is deciding if it is clinically right to save a life, even if morally and ethically it is. The pros and cons here outweigh the life of a human. Simply put, to save the doctor and the hospital from using equipment inefficiently to just “try” and show that they morally still want to save the life of someone, though they know there’s little that can actually be done. This move has been controversial, especially if doctors put the inefficient use of equipment ahead of a life, to be “clinically” correct.




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