Branding Patients: Beneficial or a Violation of Privacy?
Branding is an identification of a subject by applying a marker on that subject which can remain for the time it will be useful. Cattle are branded. Should patients be branded for one reason or another thought to be in the patient’s best interest? For example, a common hospital branding is to have a colored wrist band on a patient to identify the patient who does not wish to have cardio-pulmonary resuscitation in the event the heart stops beating. This branding is to identify those patients with that emergency when a decision has to be made about whether or not to resuscitate particularly if the patient’s chart is not readily available. But there are many other cautions that could be made easily apparent to the hospital staff by affixing some sign to the patient with a visible sticker such as allergy, prone to falling, need for isolation related to infections and others. In recent years there has been developed policies to have symmetrical sided part of the body that is to be operated upon to be branded to avoid mistaken operation on the wrong sided part. And what about privacy? It might not be unusual for others not involved in the patient’s care to become aware of the branding code (perhaps from their own personal experience) and then be able to identify the branding of another patient. For what conditions or issues would you think it would be inappropriate to brand the patient?
If a person has a problem for which others should be aware for the medical benefit of that person or for the safety of others, is it ethical for such a person to be identified? Or because of the way such branding was carried out in the Nazi era on Jews and others, branding is a troublesome consideration for its application to persons? ..Maurice.
Graphic: Photograph of a street sign in Europe branding a neighborhood that the elderly and infirm are present alerting drivers to be aware and cautious.