A health care provider has an obligation to the patient, first he or she is supposed to provide the patient with the necessary information. This enables a patient to make informed choices. Despite giving the necessary information some patients who are competent enough may refuse treatment.
This presents a health care provider with a difficult situation on which he or she has to make a hard decision. They have the obligation to provide the necessary care and treatment to the patient and here he or she does not want to continue with the treatment.
The health care provider is supposed to make a decision based on ethics and bearing in mind that the patient is competent and has the right to make decisions which must be respected. This is a situation that is common in the medical field and it presents many questions which mainly dwell in ethics and law.
Will it be ethical for the health care provider to cooperate with such a patient when he or she knows too well that the life is at risk? To answer this question it is important to understand the underlying issues and at the same time apply the code of ethics that governs and guides the health care providers in the course of delivering their services to their patients.
A competent patient has been described in terms of law as that who has a sound mind enough to make decisions concerning a particular issue. This involves the ability to make informed choices or decisions based on the information they have gained either from the health care providers or on their own. The law stipulates that a competent patient can refuse treatment even if it important to save life. This is a right which is well stipulated in the constitution right to privacy.
The patient has the right to decide what is good for them as long as this decision is based on information given by the health care provider. Such a patient has to be well informed of the benefits, alternatives and risks of the decisions they are about to make. One aspect of the American bioethics states that a competent patient has the right to refuse treatment even in situations where the health care provider believes that the treatment being accorded will be of help to the patient.
In such a situation it would be unethical for the health care provider to cooperate with the patient as he or she is well aware of repercussions of such a decision. It is important that the health care provider try and establish the patient capacity to make rational decision.
The physician has an obligation to try and convince the patient to change his or her mind. They may have made their decision based on the situation at the moment. The health care provider has a role to play in such a case. Cooperating with the patient will only make the matters worse as the patient health status might deteriorate. (Loewy, R (2004)
The fact that a physician is obligated to provided the best care ever to his or her client complicates this issue. The patient –physician relationship dictates that a health care provider respect his clients’ opinion even in cases where their decisions are not promoting their well being.
Cooperating with a patient who does not want treatment due to various reasons such as religion, attitudes or beliefs will be tantamount to helping the patient die. The primary role of a health care provider is to ensure that patient health improves; will cooperation in such a case be helping in the improvement of the client health? In such a case the health care provider need to examine and explore the level of understanding of the patient.
They might have given the client right information but their decision was not based on such rather it was due to underlying issues such as fear or past experiences. Exploration of the patient resistance especially in cases where their actions do not lead to their well being might help save the situation instead of assisting them to harm themselves.
On the other hand distancing from the patient situation reflects a clear misunderstanding of the principle of autonomy something which is contrary to the ethic of healing.
Physicians should strive to do everything possible to counter the effects of fear, anxiety and depression. This can be done through education and vigorously convincing the patient to change their minds concerning their decision to harm their health. (Fletcher, N and Holt, J 1995)
When the health care provider has explored all the channels and used all his or her powers to convince the patient to comply with the treatment and the patient still does not want to take the advice, it is ethically and legally right to honor that decision.
This might not be tantamount to cooperation but only recognizing the fact that the patient has the right to make decisions especially if they are based on the information given. The health care provider role ends here as he or she has tried all the best using all the means to convince the patient to comply.
Most people hope to have a peaceful death when their time to leave this world comes. They may be experiencing unbearable pain such that they feel their lives would not be of any value if they continued to live. Health care providers are presented with such cases in many occasions.
They have to make decisions whether such an actions where they assist a patent to die is tantamount to breaking to code of ethic or is just a matter of serving the patient and according them some dignified send off.