Ethical Issues in Healthcare Practices
- Mrs. Beaudoin, who is 97 years old, was admitted to your LTC facility 6 years ago. Shortly after becoming a resident, she suffered a cardiac arrest and was found to be unresponsive by the staff; CPR was initiated for a total of 20 minutes prior to return of spontaneous circulation. She has an advanced directive stating that she agrees to “transfer to an acute care facility”, but other options, such as CPR and intubation, were not explicitly addressed in this document. She has no formal Power of Attorney.
Initially, Mrs. Beaudoin had lived at your facility watching TV for most of the day. She was wheelchair bound and required assistance with most activities of daily living (ADLs). Her husband lives at your facility with her and is quite frail with moderate dementia. Mrs. Beaudoin is frequently visited by her large extended family, which comprises 4 children and 5 grandchildren. She is known to have cancer throughout much of her body, moderate dementia, a very bad heart, and type-2 diabetes.
After her cardiac arrest and a short stay in the Hospital ICU, Mrs. Beaudoin is brought back to your facility able to breathe on her own, but with a moderate to severe brain injury caused by lack of oxygen after her cardiac arrest; this has left her unable to communicate in any meaningful way with others. She is receiving thickened fluids as her source of nutrition and hydration, but is only able to
consume about half of the calories that would be needed to keep her at her current weight. Unfortunately her health begins to decline further shortly after returning.
The team decides to hold a family conference with the resident’s children, and proposes a plan of treatment that would focus on comfort care only, excluding CPR if needed again. The patient’s eldest daughter does not agree and states that her mother is “a fighter” and wanted to live to be 100 years old so that she could be spotlighted on The Today Show (the mother fondly remembers Willard Scott). The daughter asks that her mother be transferred back to the acute care hospital to receive the care of “experts” and so that she could be seen by a surgeon for surgery and chemotherapy for her cancer.
The treating physician discusses the case over the telephone with the on-call oncologist at the hospital. The oncologist agrees that the prognosis is extremely poor and likely the resident would not benefit from further invasive treatment. The hospital oncologist holds a conference call with the family and team at the LTC home. She identifies himself as an expert in the field. The older daughter, reiterates her requests to the oncologist.
What are some of the ethical issues in this case?
- Who is the appropriate substitute decision-maker (SDM) in this case?
- If there is more than one SDM, what should you do if they disagree?
- Because we know Mrs. Beaudoin’s desire to live to be 100, must we ensure that “everything is done” in an attempt to prolong her life?