The case study presents an ethical dilemma in healthcare provision. It accounts for an older man named R.L. who had several conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and kidney problems. His doctor noticed that he had reduced enthusiasm for activities he previously enjoyed and diagnosed him with depression. Soon afterward, he suffered a heart attack which made him reliant on dialysis to keep his kidneys functioning (Lee, 1997). However, R.L. refused treatment and instead asked to be allowed to die. The doctors were hesitant to grant his wish because they thought depression impaired his decision-making capabilities. The ethical dilemma in this scenario is whether R.L. should be allowed to make medical decisions regarding his life.
On one side of the argument, patients have the right to informed consent. In opposition, doctors reserve the right to question a sick individual’s mental capacity and instead do what they believe to be best for them. Although the physician believes that this dialysis will provide R.L. with the most benefits, he feels it is too taxing on his body and wishes to die instead (Lee, 1997). However, due to depression, R.L. lacks the mental capacity to decide his treatment. It is prudent for the doctor to continue administering depression medications and dialysis. This upholds the standard of beneficence and gives R.L. a chance to benefit from medical interventions. The patient should also receive extensive therapy and psychiatric care. This ensures that he is well-informed on the consequences of his decisions and allows other specialists to assess his mental condition. After some time, if there are no improvements to his health and he maintains his decisions, his doctor should follow it. In this case, R.L.’s wife also supported her husband’s choices and granted him his wish. Therefore, both the principles of beneficence and autonomy were upheld.
Lee, M. (1997).The case of the depressed patient. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.