For three days, Jane, a pregnancy woman was confined to a hospital against her will, ordered by state court to bed rest and any medical care necessary to sustain her troubled pregnancy. Jane was in her 26th week of pregnancy when she began to go into premature labor and willingly went to the hospital on advice of her doctor. but when she resisted — learning that she might have stay months until her delivery away from two toddlers at home and a job that fed her family– hospital officials obtained a court ordered to force her to submit to anything to “preserve the life and health of her unborn child
The woman miscarried three days later and was discharged.
What are the major moral or ethical issues raise by this case?
The case raises major moral and ethical issues, regarding the right to life for the unborn child, and the question of patient autonomy. The caregivers deliberately mislead the patient taking away her right to informed consent. She is detained at the hospital against her will despite having small children that need her care and employment that is essential for her family. Whereas the caregivers were acting to protect the unborn child, they violated the principle of nonmaleficence, as they created a situation that could potentially harm the patient, as she was not allowed to care for her toddlers, or secure her work (Jonsen, Siegler, and Winslade 9). The caregivers have a duty to the patient they are caring for, who happened to be the mother, therefore, all actions needed to be geared towards benefitting the mother, as opposed to the unborn child.
What are the ethical reasons and arguments for each side in this case?
The hospital officials could argue that they were acting out of good faith and in the interests of the unborn child, as discharging the mother would have amounted to murder. The mother needed to be cared for within a hospital setting, and regardless of her obligations back at home, the mother needed to stay in the hospital. For the mother, staying in hospital would amount to abandoning her toddlers for the sake of an unborn child that might not remain viable to delivery. The mother would have argued that it was unethical for the hospital officials to deny her right to informed consent, considering that she was of sound mind and sufficiently competent to make the decision on her own.
Do you think the patient’s rights were abused in this case?
The patient’s right to informed consent and to accept or reject care was abused. Not only was the patient misinformed over how long she would need to be in hospital following premature labor, but the decision to remain in hospital was made for her. The fact that a miscarriage occurred only three days later, proves that the hospital officials’ actions never benefited the patient at all. Instead of respecting the rights of the mother as the patient, the hospital opted to put the rights of the non viable fetus above all else, thereby undermining the rights of the mother to decide whether she even wanted to keep the pregnancy.
If so, what rights were abused
The patient’s right to informed consent was abused, as was her right to information regarding her care. By obtaining a court order restraining or confining her to a particular hospital, the hospital denied her the right to choose her caregivers. In addition, the hospital also made unilateral decisions that denied her the right to participate in her own care (Killion, and Dempski 35).
What could have been done differently?
The hospital officials needed to speak with the patient to convince her of the need for hospitalization. Rather than simply state the obvious need for hospitalization, the approach to be used needed to be collaboratively agreed upon, such that the patient felt that her views had formed part of the proposed solution. Before obtaining informed consent, the hospital needed to outline the other possibilities, such as prematurely inducing labor once the unborn child’s lungs matured. Considering that she was already 26 weeks along, convincing her to stay in the hospital for another two weeks would no doubt have been easier. Based on the principle of nonmaleficence, the hospital should not have created a situation that could harm the patient, her family and her livelihood.
Jonsen, Albert R, Mark Siegler, and William J. Winslade. Clinical Ethics: A Practical Approach to Ethical Decisions in Clinical Medicine. New York: McGraw Hill, Medical Pub. Division, 2006. Web.
Killion, Susan W, and Katherine Dempski. Legal and Ethical Issues. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett, 2006. Print.