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Healthcare Ethics

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CASE SCENARIO

Leo R. is a 45-year-old patient with diabetes and is a widower with three young children. Two of Leo’s children suffer from chronic medical conditions. His oldest daughter, like Leo, has insulin-dependent diabetes. His only son suffers from grand mal epilepsy, which is poorly controlled by a plethora of medications. Leo works for a small printing business, a job he enjoys, but one that makes it difficult for him to make ends meet. With only six employees, the company’s owner cannot afford to offer health insurance. Leo’s annual salary of $30,000 allows him to purchase only the most basic of health plans, one that does not include coverage for prescription medications. Leo frequently must decide between medications and food, often opting for cheap junk food that is neither nutritious for his young family nor appropriate for a diabetic diet. Leo has recently applied for and been offered several other jobs, but at a lower salary and with no health insurance coverage.
Recently, Leo’s diabetes has worsened. He has developed a serious infection that has led to lost wages and, far worse, the loss of his right leg below the knee. Leo is weighing his options. He has heard about a new clinical research trial open to insulin-dependent diabetics that pays $100 a week to research subjects. He has also been quite depressed and begun to wonder if his children might not be better off without him. He has several life insurance policies that would pay off generously if something were to happen to him, and he has broached the subject of assisted suicide with his long-time physician. Is there a way, he asks his physician, to have his death look like it was from natural causes so his children could collect on the policy?

CHAPTER QUESTIONS

1. What ethical responsibilities do health care professionals have to their patients?
2. What ethical rights do patients have?…...

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