Analysis Of Ms. Northern: Informed Consent And Confidentiality

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Ms. Northern: Informed Consent and Confidentiality

Healthcare professionals face moral and ethical dilemmas on a daily basis. While some solutions to these dilemmas may be black or white, this is not always the case. In the following situation, a decision had to be made in regards to whether or not an elderly woman’s feet should be surgically removed against her will in order to save her from gangrene. It will be argued in this paper that any and all decisions regarding Mary Northern’s body and overall well-being should be left to her to decide autonomously. The first question that needs to be addressed is whether Mrs. Northern had the capacity to withhold her informed consent. The conditions for informed consent as outlined by Hersch
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Northern’s wishes and ordered the physician to perform the surgery, it would be an illegitimate action. Beauchamp states that informed consent is a matter of autonomous choice (Kuhse et al., 2016, p. 637). It is for the patient alone to decide what is best for his or her future. Losing both feet would confine a patient to a wheelchair for life. At the old age of 72, Mrs. Northern may not see the purpose in living the remainder of her life immobilized and likely in a senior home due to this surgical outcome. This could be especially true in her case since it is stated in the file that she lived alone in conditions so unsatisfactory that she developed gangrene in both feet. One can assume, based on her unsatisfactory living condition, that she likely had no close friends or family members to look after her or visit every so often as a caretaker or visitor would notice the evident blackening of her lower extremities and the foul order of necrosis (tissue death). It has been argued above that she was capable of withholding her informed consent. If the court system decided to disregard her decision, it would be a fundamental breach in her autonomy. Breaching an individual’s autonomy, particularly in a case such as this where her decision likely affects none but herself, is inherently unethical and …show more content…
Utilitarianism is the theory that the ethical decision is the one that creates the most happiness (Mill, 2001, p. 16). It falls under the overarching consequentialist theory that the ethical decision is the one that brings about the best consequences. Mill argues that utilitarianism is not solely about causing the greatest number of people to experience happiness, but that there is a weight put on different types and sources of happiness. This weight can be used to measure happiness on a scale, therefore, utilitarianism is about creating the highest amount of happiness rather than the highest number of happy people (Mill, 2001, p. 17). In other words, it focuses on quality over quantity. If the physician in Mrs. Northern’s case was a utilitarian, he should act in the manner that would bring about the highest quality of happiness. The main point that he would need to consider is whether Mrs. Northern’s wish to attempt recovery without treatment would make her happier than her son who may or may not wish to see his mother live and therefore receive the surgery. According to Mill, the only way for the physician to truly weigh both levels of happiness would be if he had personally experienced both situations (Mill, 2001, p. 17). However, in this case, it might suffice that the physician simply speak to both mother and son separately to determine what their true desires are and

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