In the past, patients did not care about the actions of the physicians on them whenever they visited them. This is referred to as paternalism where the patient’s health care officers did not require any opinion from the patients. Today things have changed and there have to be discussions between the two parties. Why has this happened? (Buchanan, 1978).
There have been lots of philosophical changes in health care and this is one of the reasons why the shift has occurred. Everybody has a right to information and this is also supported by the law of the land in many places and therefore the health care workers must disseminate any information to the patient by the requirement of the law and two because it is logical. Why should anyone withhold important information from a patient at this time of high technology and economic developments? Suppose the patient fails to survive and needed to pass some important information about his day-to-day activities.
Wouldn’t it be better if he was told his health condition in advance so that he can prepare his wills adequately before anything happens? There is no reason whatsoever to hide such information because it will increase the autonomy of this person. This is morally right. This will also be appropriate because, in this world of terminal diseases, the patient and the family will know if they will continue spending money on a terminal illness. (Buchanan, 1978).
In a case of an important operation on the patient, the consent of the patient must be obtained. This is the principle of autonomy. How can it be applied? In my view, if the demands of the patient or the family members demand a service that is not harmful to the patient, let it be given even if the physician feels that it won’t be of any help provided it is not against the law to do that. This ensures that the patient is satisfied that everything is being done to sustain life.
If the demand the patient or the family is seeking is dangerous, then it is not supposed to be honored. The main purpose of existence under the sun is to preserve life. Anybody who is opposed to such views should be convinced by being encouraged to preserve life under whatever circumstances whether difficult or expensive, whether accepted by people or rejected, whether good or bad. I hope that by trying to do this, we will know when to respect the autonomy of the patient and when not to. (Shaw, 1973).
The EMTALA law
Some people will seek emergency services from hospitals without the dire need for them. The EMTALA law impacts the people who must receive emergency services. A person who comes to the hospital seeking emergency care must receive a ‘medical screening examination to ensure that he qualifies for the same. There are therefore very low chances that a person who does not qualify for emergency service but is demanding for it will receive the same. The law also governs the physicians and there are huge fines and penalties to those hospitals and physicians who fail to provide emergency services for a genuine case. This law ensures that both the patient and the physician do what is required and what is right.
But is there a conflict between the law and the medical professional ethics that require the physician to honor the moral rights of the patient? Is it the moral right of the patient to seek any form of treatment, whether emergency or not? It could be a moral right but the physician is also guided by a medical principle that requires him to ‘follow the law
And provide competent care.’ These kinds of principles and ethics will prevent any conflicts and will ensure that those who seek services they do not qualify for don’t receive them. (Shaw, 1973).
Buchanan, A. (1978). Medical paternalism. Philos Public Aff. 7 (4):370–390.
Shaw A. (1973). Dilemmas of “informed consent” in children. N Engl J Med. 289 (17):885–890.