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Using AMA Guidelines on an Ethics Case Study: Ethical Decision Making in Life Threatening Situations

Read the following case study and answer the questions below.

ACME Medical Center has been damaged seriously by a recent hurricane. A helicopter that is trying to rescue people stranded by the hurricane has crashed, hitting the wing of the building where the pediatric unit was located. In the midst of the explosion, fire, and confusion, five people make their way to the roof and wait for rescue. They are Mary, a mother who is carrying her ill infant who was a patient on the unit; Joseph, her husband and the baby's father; John, a pediatric resident who had been caring for the baby; Margaret, the RN, who was on duty in the pediatric unit; and Peter, a transport employee who was helping to prepare patients for rescue and evacuation.

Mary says to the group, "I think I hear someone crying. Yes, I can hear cries for help. We've got to go back down the stairs and help those people!" Dr. John says, "You women stay here. Joseph and I will go back down and see what we can do." Joseph looks first at his own ill infant and then down the smoke-filled stairs and replies, "I'm not going back down. It's too risky. The smoke is too thick. We'd never make it through and survive." Margaret the RN says, "We've got to do something; we can't just let people die. I'd never be able to live with myself. Those are my patients and I need to help them." Margaret runs down the stairs and disappears. Peter says, "You're all crazy! In a situation like this it's every man for himself!"
1. What is the ethical dilemma?
2. What is your value and ethical position related to the case? Include discussion of theory and principles on which your position is based.
3. What are some other alternatives for resolving the problem?
4. What are the possible consequences for those acceptable alternatives?
5. How would you prioritize the acceptable alternatives?

Solution Preview

1. The ethical dilemma here is whether it is better to save others (people left on the pediatric wing of the hospital) at the risk of losing human life in the process (rescuers themselves).

2. My position in this case is based on the guidelines provided by the AMA. In regards to providing medical services when allocation of these services are limited the AMA stance is very clear. "Decisions regarding the allocation of limited medical resources among patients should consider only ethically appropriate criteria relating to medical ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses ethical decision making in point-form in 362 words. The AMA Code of Ethics found at www.ama.org is referenced.

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