Friday, February 21, 2014

Adventures in Medical Ethics

So, after 12 years as a pharmacy technician, I finally had my first brush with  a situation at work that made me ethically uncomfortable. Clearly, I can't go into a whole lot of detail because of HIPAA regulations. I was happy only to be peripherally involved. Basically a patient became pregnant knowing it was high risk and today in order to keep the patient alive we had to give that patient a drug that will more than likely end/seriously harm the pregnancy. All possible options were on the table for this patient and the choice to receive the drug was....not without a ton of education on the part of the hospital. I believe the choice to be the crueler of all the options that were available. In my mind, knowing that this was a very likely scenario, early termination would have been the preferable option. I don't know for certain, but it's my belief that religion played a part in the decision. Which, if I'm being frank, disgusted me even more. Many of the medical professionals involved in this case were agitated about it. This is not something any medical professional wants to do. The communication involved was unreal. Anyone would question this choice and so everyone who might even remotely be involved had to be contacted. Of course, it does no good to show emotion or judgment in front of the patient and that was called into question today as some colleagues were expressing their agitation maybe a bit too loudly. The whole thing just made me really sad. What would have been best for everyone, medically and scientifically speaking was disregarded and lesser choice was made because of, what I'm assuming are religious beliefs. More than likely, the same outcome, but in one situation there is responsibility to be had and in the other, blame can be placed elsewhere. People are of course, entitled to their spirituality, but when I feel it becomes a scapegoat, I take offense to that. No, these are not easy decisions. They're probably the most difficult ones that you could ever possibly make, but isn't it cruel to wait it out knowing that it is near to impossible to carry the fetus long enough for it to survive out of the womb? I have no say, of course and kept my opinion mostly to myself except to say that it was very sad. I imagine that when I finally become a respiratory therapist that I will come across these situations more frequently. It's very uncomfortable to be involved in this kind of thing on any level. I was impressed with the professionalism of our clinical coordinator. She was involved from the start and completely judgment free in all our discussions. I have no idea what her personal opinions are. She thoroughly researched every possible decision and presented all the medical options to the immense team of doctors involved. At the risk of sounding like a goober, I hope I grow up to be just like that. As an RT, that is. Lord knows I do my best, but cases like this really call your beliefs into question and make you think long and hard about what you would do in a similar situation. Anyway, this will be on my mind for a long time. I see an adult beverage in my future.

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