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Ethical Issues in Health Care Access- Heart Attack

Research over the years continues to find that among heart attack victims, those with diagnosed mental illnesses are less likely to receive aggressive treatment as those heart attack victims with no diagnoses of mental illness. Aggressive treatments include angioplasty and bypass surgery among others. Some researchers have suggested that the differential may be the product of bias among health care providers. Others suggest that the difference in care provided may simply reflect the individual patientâ??s exercise of their own autonomy to refuse treatment. Still other explanations suggest that because individuals with mental illnesses are often non-compliant with health care follow-up, aggressive treatment may be futile. First, are there ethical issues embedded in these research findings? Second, if so, what are they and what is your analysis of them?

Argue both sides of the issues basing arguments on ethical theories/ethical principles.


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The ethical issues central to this case are the doctor's intent and professional duty and the patient's rights. Such rights would include autonomy to choice, the right not to be harmed, and the right to fair and equitable treatment (Scalan, 2001).

The patient's autonomy resides on the patient's right to make a decision freely according to the information available, provided that the information given to the patient is adequate and culturally and linguistically appropriate for the patient to comprehend (Scalan, 2001; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). Mental illness has been used in legal actions as a reason not to be accountable of wrong doing or lack of capacity to enter a contract. Legally, capacity "refers to the ability to make a rational decision based upon all relevant facts and considerations" (, 2010, para.1). Medically, there is the consideration that mental illnesses have different origins (causes) and degrees ...

Solution Summary

The solution involves a discussion of the possible ethical issues embedded in the treatment disparities found among heart attack victims diagnosed of mental illness compared to those not diagnosed of mental illness. Ethical principles such as doctor's intent, professional duty, and patient's rights are argued as possible reasons that explain the disparities.