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ETHICS IN MEDICINE   University of Washington School of Medicine

Case 1

You are the ICU attending physician taking care of a 40-year-old gay man with AIDS who is intubated with his third bout of pneumocystis pneumonia. His condition is worsening steadily and he has not responded to appropriate antibiotic therapy. The patient's longtime partner, Richard, has a signed durable power of attorney (DPOA) and states that if the patient's condition becomes futile the patient would not want ongoing ventilation. As the ICU attending you decide that ongoing intubation is futile. You consult with Richard and decide to remove the patient from the ventilator to allow him to die in the morning. The patient's Roman Catholic parents arrive from Kansas and threaten a lawsuit if the ventilator is withdrawn.

There are several key questions which come out of this case:

  • Who is the legal decision maker here?
  • What are some of the pertinent social influences in this case?
  • Who are some other staff members who may be able to help?
  • How should the physician deal with any prejudices they have in this case?


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