What Are Ethical Dilemmas?
Ethical dilemmas may arise for patients, family members, medical staff members and physicians alike.
Some of the issues surrounding problems for which ethics consultation may be requested include:
- Advance directives
- Surrogate decision making
- Refusal of treatment
- Conflicts with caregivers
- Foregoing life-sustaining treatment
- Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) orders
- Other issues perceived as ethical problems
Examples of ethical dilemmas may include the following:
- Your critically ill family member is in the hospital and the doctors and nurses are turning to you to make medical decisions on the patient’s behalf. You don't know how to decide what to do and could use some guidance.
- You are a patient and are too sick to speak for yourself. You are concerned about who will make medical decisions on your behalf, and whether your wishes will be followed. You wonder, "What if they disagree about what I would want, or what would be best for me?"
- You are part of the healthcare team and your patient comes from a culture in which it is considered wrong to tell patients that they are dying. You're unclear how to respond to a family’s request to conceal the truth from a dying patient.
- You are a physician and some may think it is time to withdraw life support and let nature take its course, yet the dying patient’s family insists that you "do everything possible" to keep the patient alive. You're unclear how to solve this problem and worry that "doing everything" might cause the patient pain and discomfort without offering any benefit.
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