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ETHICS IN MEDICINE   University of Washington School of Medicine

Physician-Patient Relationship:
Case 2 Discussion

While the physician has a moral obligation to obey the law, he must balance this against his responsibility to the patient. In researching the Criminal Code of Washington, the physician learned that sexual intercourse with a minor, at least 16, but under 18, is a class C felony, and a reportable offense, if the offender is at least 90 months older than the victim. This patient's relationship did not actually meet the criteria for mandatory reporting. Had this not been the case however, the physician could be justified in weighing the balance of harms arising from the filing of such a report.

There is little justification for informing the family of the young woman's sexual activity. Due to the family's strong fundamentalist beliefs, significant damage would have occurred in the family reconciliation process with this discovery. Although they would clearly disapprove of the patient's actions, her choices carry no risk of harm to them.


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