Tuesday, January 16, 2007

first lawnscience question

So let's talk about the case of Ashley, the "pillow angel". You all probably recall the story: she's a severely disabled girl whose doctors approved a growth-stunting treatment in order to keep her small. The idea is that this would make it easier--or indeed possible--for her parents to take care of her.

What gets overlooked in some of the blurbs is that this decision was approved by the hospital's ethics committee. Which brings to mind a question I've talked about a lot with my own brother, an internist: what role is there--or should there be--for a doctor in making these ethical determinations? My brother's approach is that for every decision within a certain "grey area," you ask the hospital ethics committee (which all hospitals have, as I understand), and if they approve, then you're good to go--and indeed, you may *have* to apply such treatment in order to fulfill your Hippocratic oath. My question is whether there's any room for the individual doctor to interject his or her own ethical understandings. Is the only room for it at the stage where a doctor decides whether or not to go to the ethics committee? Or is there room to question the determination of the committee itself?

My apologies if this is all worked out in the medical ethics literature--I'm kind of new to this!

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