Cases where famous or influential people are asking for special treatment ask that we review our ethical criteria for resource allocation. Do some people "deserve" special treatment over others? What would justify such a claim? In this case, the ER staff might be swayed by the powerful position the board member holds in their institution and want to do their best for her. However, the other people waiting in the ER have been subject to triage criteria based on medical need. It would be unjust to waive these criteria on the basis of social position. While this may seem unrealistic, one might also consider the effect on the hospital if the board member faces a long, tedious wait in the waiting room along with everyone else. A complaint voiced by this powerful person may enact change on staffing considerations more effectively than a number of patient complaints. To let her sail through would be to create an impression of smoothness that is most likely not part of the everyday ER experience.
Case 2 Discussion
For further discussion of this case, please refer to Douglas S. Diekema's
article, "The preferential treatment of VIPs in the emergency department,"
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 1996; 14(2):226-229.
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