Explore BrainMass

Ethics of Controversial Medical Therapies: Medical Marijuana

You are the president of a Border General Hospital (BGH) that is located in Colorado. You have been asked to draft ethical guidelines and principles for the Border General Hospital's next meeting of the Board of Directors. BGH is known in the area for having a progressive cancer treatment center, and as part of the center, BGH has a pharmacy that can dispense medication that is prescribed to patients of the cancer center. Many patients travel a great distance to seek treatment at Border General Hospital. Luther Johnson, a 65 year old pastor who lives in a nearby state, travels to BGH to seek treatment for prostate cancer. Johnson's doctor, a physician at the cancer center, has prescribed a variety of drugs to treat Johnson, including marijuana, which is to be used for medicinal therapy purposes in conjunction with Johnson's cancer treatment.

Write a paper of 5-7 pages that outlines the major components of ethical considerations and principles that are present in this scenario. Include the following:
- Examine the considerations that Border General should take into account when assessing the forms of therapy that are recommended for patients.
- Analyze relevant laws that should be considered by Border General when framing therapeutic guidelines for a health care institution relative to the use of medical marijuana or other substances that may be deemed illegal to possess, sell, or use by various jurisdictions.
- Differentiate various ethical dilemmas that patients might face regarding treatment that includes medical marijuana.
- Differentiate the ethical perspectives of health care organizations and doctors relative to the establishment of organizational-level guidelines to be used by doctors when assessing and planning patient care and for patients when making decisions regarding prescribed care.
- Examine the ultraliberal versus the ultraconservative ethics, and evaluate how they relate to this situation.
Formulate ethical guidelines that could be used by a hospital in assessing care recommendations and decisions.

The body of the resultant paper should be 5-7 pages, and it should include at least 5 relevant peer-reviewed academic or professional references that have been published within the past 5 years.

Solution Preview

This is not intended as an assignment completion.

Ethical and Legal Guidelines for Therapeutic Services
Border General Hospital must consider the ethical and legal aspects of encouraging the use of medical marijuana within the hospital. While such treatment may be helpful for patients in certain situations, it may not always be the best choice. For example, while a cancer patient may be prescribed THC in liquid or other form, all aspects of use, including whether it may be legal or illegal for the patient to use at home, the patient's social and living environments, and the patient's level of self monitoring should be considered. A patient with no family, living alone, may not pose as much risk to society, in terms of the potential illegal sale of prescribed marijuana. This is especially true for a priest who has little mainstream contact with the public on a regular basis. However, if the priest is unable to maintain confidentiality of his marijuana use, those who are aware of the use could potentially engage in illegal/criminal activity, such as theft or assault on the priest, in order to obtain the marijuana.

The necessity of an on-site pharmacy for tailored cancer treatment is rarely argued. Many of the drugs used to treat various forms of cancer are biological hazards to those not seeking treatment. Additionally, pharmacies open to the public do not administer the IV cancer treatments. So, carrying such drugs in the pharmacy would not make much sense, as obtaining them would be inconvenient for physicians and nurses administering treatments to cancer patients. However, making non-standard treatments like medical marijuana available can create controversy and can put patients' and community members' well being at risk. Two main controversies exist over the use of medical
marijuana. One controversy centers on the drug classification of marijuana, which is Schedule I "Hallucinogenic" according to the Controlled Substances Act 1970 (Thomson, 2015). Based on this classification, some experts believe it would be wrong to allow marijuana for medical or any other purpose, as schedule I drugs are also classified as having no medical or therapeutic value.

Those who promote the use of medical marijuana often do so from the perspective of making cancer patients (and others with chronic or serious diseases that contribute to chronic pain) more comfortable and allowing them to have a better quality of life during treatment. In Colorado, patients can apply for a medical marijuana use registration card, as long as they are residents of Colorado and are suffering from one of several qualifying medical conditions, as long as the application is signed by an MD or DO, and accompanying social security numbers and photo identification are provided. The application form must also be notarized (Thomson, 2015). For physicians, the implications are that the patient must be diagnosed with one of the qualifying conditions and the provider must be able to provide clinical evidence, to justify the use of marijuana. In addition, providers who prescribe marijuana must make sure patients submit the application properly and must adhere to any standards in dosage prescribing guidelines. This helps prevent patients and others from taking legal action against the hospital. However, just like prescription pain medications, there is always a chance that a patient may become dependent on marijuana, even if pain no longer exists.

While the substance is not thought to be physically addicting, it can cause psychological addiction problems. Some medical scientists believe medical marijuana may be a safer alternative to physically addicting ...

Solution Summary

The discussion focuses on the ethical and legal implications of offering medical marijuana as a viable treatment option for cancer patients.