Food refusal in prisoners: a communication or a method of self-killing? The role of the psychiatrist and resulting ethical challenges.
Food refusal occurs for a variety of reasons. It may be used as a political tool, as a method of exercising control over others, at either the individual, family or societal level, or as a method of self-harm, and occasionally it indicates possible mental illness. This article examines the motivation behind hunger strikes in prisoners. It describes the psychiatrist's role in assessment and management of prisoners by referring to case examples. The paper discusses the assessment of an individual's competence to commit suicide by starvation, legal restraints to intervention, practical difficulties and associated ethical dilemmas. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most prisoners who refuse food are motivated by the desire to achieve an end rather than killing themselves, and that hunger-strike secondary to mental illness is uncommon. Although rarely required, the psychiatrist may have an important contribution to make in the management of practical and ethical difficulties. (+info)
Bioethics of the refusal of blood by Jehovah's Witnesses: Part 3. A proposal for a don't-ask-don't-tell policy.
Of growing concern over Jehovah's Witnesses' (JWs) refusal of blood is the intrusion of the religious organisation into its members' personal decision making about medical care. The organisation currently may apply severe religious sanctions to JWs who opt for certain forms of blood-based treatment. While the doctrine may be maintained as the unchangeable "law of God", the autonomy of individual JW patients could still be protected by the organisation modifying its current policy so that it strictly adheres to the right of privacy regarding personal medical information. The author proposes that the controlling religious organisation adopt a "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy, which assures JWs that they would neither be asked nor compelled to reveal personal medical information, either to one another or to the church organisation. This would relieve patients of the fear of breach of medical confidentiality and ensure a truly autonomous decision on blood-based treatments without fear of organisational control or sanction. (+info)
Jehovah's Witnesses' refusal of blood: obedience to scripture and religious conscience.
Jehovah's Witnesses are students of the Bible. They refuse transfusions out of obedience to the scriptural directive to abstain and keep from blood. Dr Muramoto disagrees with the Witnesses' religious beliefs in this regard. Despite this basic disagreement over the meaning of Biblical texts, Muramoto flouts the religious basis for the Witnesses' position. His proposed policy change about accepting transfusions in private not only conflicts with the Witnesses' fundamental beliefs but it promotes hypocrisy. In addition, Muramoto's arguments about pressure to conform and coerced disclosure of private information misrepresent the beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses and ignore the element of individual conscience. In short, Muramoto resorts to distortion and uncorroborated assertions in his effort to portray a matter of religious faith as a matter of medical ethical debate. (+info)
The family rule: a framework for obtaining ethical consent for medical interventions from children.
Children's consent to treatment remains a contentious topic, with confusing legal precepts and advice. This paper proposes that informed consent in children should be regarded as shared between children and their families, the balance being determined by implicit, developmentally based negotiations between child and parent--a "family rule" for consent. Consistent, operationalized procedures for ethically obtaining consent can be derived from its application to both routine and contentious situations. Therefore, use of the "family Rule" concept can consistently define negligent procedure in obtaining consent from children, and could be used as a unifying framework in the development of new professional guidelines. A "guideline"-based approach to children's consent to treatment may offer greater individuality than a "rights"-based approach, though careful training and oversight will be needed for it to be effective. (+info)
Ethics consultation on demand: concepts, practical experiences and a case study.
Despite the increasing interest in clinical ethics, ethics consultation as a professional service is still rare in Europe. In this paper I refer to examples in the United States. In Germany, university hospitals and medical faculties are still hesitant about establishing yet another "committee". One of the reasons for this hesitation lies in the ignorance that exists here about how to provide medical ethics services; another reason is that medical ethics itself is not yet institutionalised at many German universities. The most important obstacle, however, may be that medical ethics has not yet demonstrated its relevance to the needs of those caring for patients. The Centre for Ethics and Law, Freiburg, has therefore taken a different approach from that offered elsewhere: clinical ethics consultation is offered on demand, the consultation being available to clinician(s) in different forms. This paper describes our experiences with this approach; practical issues are illustrated by a case study. (+info)
Patients, families, and organ donation: who should decide?
Although 69 to 75 percent of U.S. adults say they would be willing to become organ donors, half of the families that are asked to consider donating the organs of a deceased family member refuse to consent. This discrepancy is most noticeable when the refusal of a family conflicts with the known wishes of a patient. It is the practice of nearly all organ procurement organizations in the United States not to procure organs or tissue when families refuse, even if the patient's wishes have been documented. Recently, the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) adopted a controversial policy of acting on the documented wishes of individuals to donate, independent of family consent. An examination of the moral and political issues raised by this policy lead to the conclusion that the CORE policy is not only justified, but morally required. (+info)
The decision making process regarding the withdrawal or withholding of potential life-saving treatments in a children's hospital.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate the factors considered by staff, and the practicalities involved in the decision making process regarding the withdrawal or withholding of potential life-sustaining treatment in a children's hospital. To compare our current practice with that recommended by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) guidelines, published in 1997. DESIGN: A prospective, observational study using self-reported questionnaires. SETTING: Tertiary paediatric hospital. PATIENTS AND PARTICIPANTS: Consecutive patients identified during a six-month period, about whom a formal discussion took place between medical staff, nursing staff and family regarding the withholding or withdrawal of potentially life-sustaining treatments. The primary physician and primary nurse involved in the discussion were identified. METHOD: Two questionnaires completed independently by the primary physician and nurse. RESULTS: Twenty-two patients were identified (median age 1 year; range 1 day-34 years). In 20 cases treatment was withdrawn or withheld, in two cases treatment was continued. Nursing staff considered family wishes and family perceptions of patient suffering as significantly more important factors in decision making than medical staff, who considered prognostic factors as most important. In only two cases were the patient's expressed wishes apparently available. In most cases staff considered the patient's best interests were served and the process would not be enhanced by the involvement of an independent ethics committee. The exceptions were those cases in which treatment was continued following disagreement between parties. CONCLUSIONS: Our current practice is consistent with that recommended by the RCPCH. The contribution of the patient, provision of staff counselling and general practitioner (GP) involvement were identified as areas for improvement. (+info)
A terminally ill man requests that his life be brought to a peaceful end by the doctor overseeing his care. The doctor, an atheist, regretfully declines. The patient, unsatisfied by the answer and increasingly desperate for relief, presses the doctor for an explanation. During the ensuing dialogue the philosophical, ethical and emotional arguments brought to bear by both the doctor and the patient are dissected. (+info)