Biomedical Ethics

| June 19, 2015
Biomedical Ethics
Consider the following case then answer the questions at the end:
Inflicting Agony to Save a Life
[Taken from: Sara T. Fry and Robert M. Veatch. Case Studies in Nursing Ethics, 2nd Edition. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers,
2000. P. 128-129.]
Sally Morganthau was an experienced nurse in the care and treatment of patients suffering from body burns. She was newly assigned as
the primary nurse for James Tobias, a 32-year-old man who had been on the burn unit of Parsons County Hospital for four weeks. He had
suffered 60 percent body burns (40 percent first- and second-degree, and 20 percent third degree) after being trapped in a house fire.
It was clear to the staff that Mr. Tobias would survive his injuries, but his treatment process would be a long and painful one. He
would be hospitalized for months and would face a number of operations. He would probably lose his eyesight and have limited mobility
due to extensive muscle damage in the lower extremities. Of greater concern to the staff was Mr. Tobias’ mental distress from his
tankings and dressing changes. He often screamed with agony as the staff worked on his dressings. He demanded that they stop, but the
team, used to the screams of its patients, continued their efforts, day after day. Because of the excellent record of this particular
burn team, patients for whom survival would have been unprecedented only a few years ago pulled through.
One day after his daily tanking and dressing changes had been completed and he had returned to his room, Mr. Tobias asked for Ms.
Morganthau. He insisted that no further treatment be performed. He made it clear that he understood that this would mean his
possibilities of surviving his injuries would decrease and that if he did survive, his contractures would be worse and his problems
even more severe. Yet he insisted that the agony was too much for him, and he did not want any further treatment.
Ms. Morganthau spoke with her nursing colleagues and discovered that Mr. Tobias had been demanding that they stop the treatments for
over a week. A psychiatric consult had confirmed that Mr. Tobias was mentally lucid and understood the significance of his decision.
Dr. Albertson, the chief of the unit, was well aware of Mr. Tobias’ feelings. He had seen patients like Mr. Tobias before. Some who
had considered refusing further treatment thanked Dr. Albertson and the staff years later for going on. Dr. Albertson knew that Mr.
Tobias’ life was on the line. He was not going to lose a patient he knew he could save.
1. Based on the means/ends version of the categorical imperative, what should the hospital staff do?
2. Does Mr. Tobias meet the three elements of consent (competence, understanding, and voluntariness)?
In order to answer these questions, you will need to explain the theory or concept and demonstrate how, in your view, this case does
or does not meet the criteria.
this is a rewriting assignment. I’ll upload my original essay and the comment from my instructor.

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