Bioethics Discussion Blog: Responsibilities of a Professional: Choice or No Choice

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Responsibilities of a Professional: Choice or No Choice

In order to realize his personal responsibilities as both a husband and a father, Dr. Green regretfully had to turn aside his professional obligations leaving his patients without their physician and a pandemic looming on the horizon. A killer flu was en route to Kansas…


The above excerpt is from a brief but telling story by James E. Kelley published in the December 2007 issue of Virtual Mentor about choices and professional duties.

Please read the story and come back and write us your impression of this professional dilemma. How can and how should a physician balance his responsibilities to himself and his family with the responsibilities he has taken on with his patients? Do you think the balance is any different if the physician is a woman? Let us know what you think. ..Maurice.

ADDENDUM 3-29-2008: A recent article [full article may require subscription] in the March 26,2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association titled "Potential Penalties for Health Care Pofessionals Who Refuse to Work During a Pandemic" by Coleman and Reis seems to cover the very issue brought up in this thread but specifically with regard to punishment. Here is a brief extract of the article: "The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic and the spread of avian influenza have generated renewed interest in health care professionals' (HCPs’) obligations to work during a pandemic. However, most discussions of this issue have occurred on a relatively abstract level of ethical analysis, with less attention to what should actually happen to HCPs who are unwilling to work. Should HCPs who refuse to work be fired from their jobs? Should they lose their licenses? Should they go to jail?"

4 Comments:

At Wednesday, February 06, 2008 5:23:00 AM, Anonymous norm said...

The Physicians professional duty as I see it, is to stay with his patients. No different a situation then if he were in uniform accepting his duty to his country.

 
At Wednesday, February 06, 2008 7:40:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Do you see any line being drawn based on the details of the event between "staying with his patients" and leaving them and taking responsibilities for himself and his family? Would there be any situation where the physician would not be accused of abandonment of the patient? ..Maurice.

 
At Tuesday, February 19, 2008 5:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm certain under some circumstances the family would come first.In the event the physician has done all he/she can to treat, comfort and aide the patient and absolutely nothing further can be done, then leaving the patients and removing the family from danger would seem a reasonable option, however the circumstances, I believe, would have to border on the hopeless for the patients, even then the question would arise.Are all the patients hopeless and who has made that determination.
The Doctor leaving, no matter the circumstances, would not be viewed well no matter the strength of the argument.
So in answer to the question Would there be any situation where the physician would not be accused of abandoment of the patient.
Probably Not?

Norm

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 3:38:00 PM, Blogger Chrysalis Angel said...

That is some read. What a weight is taken on by some in this life.

I'm married to a fireman, and I was in the position during a tornado, where he left to help the community, as I huddled with only my dog in a dark basement with the twister over head. Some career choices have heavy weights of responsibility that others do not. You have to know going in what it may mean. I felt for that story.

 

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