by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
This week was a quiet one as many regular dramas were pre-empted and others did not present ethical dilemmas.
The Resident (Season 2; Episode 12): Putting oneself at risk; Conflicts of Interest
When a patient in isolation for having an undiagnosed infectious disease is in distress, Nevins violates protocol by rushing into the quarantine room without her biohazard suit. Not only did she neglect to put on the suit, she also did not put on any basic personal protective equipment—gloves or mask/shield. Standard procedure is to have at least one person (per patient) partially dressed in protective suits at all time in case of an emergency that requires quick action. In this specific case, there were two patients in distress and only one prepared health care provider. Thus, Nevins claims she was saving a person’s life (end justifies the means thinking). However, in the process, she put her life in danger and now has be isolated herself, removing her from the care of all patients. Health care providers are obligated to help others but they are also not obligated to put themselves in harm’s way. In fact, by putting herself in harm’s way and taking herself out of the game, she has likely endangered a large number of lives. How many people will not receive her care? By acting recklessly, Nevins violated protocol (deontological thinking) and has increased the work burden on her colleagues (to know care for her patients and to care for her—justice thinking).
In a continuing story arc (and commentary) on the relationship between medical device manufacturers and doctors/hospitals, Austin confronts his mentor (who had previously vouched, twice, for the company’s devices) about why he was supportive of a heart valve that private testing showed were defective. Austin has learned through a ProPublica reporting site (he could have just looked on the Sunshine Act site) that the endorsement of the products came with a $1.5 million payoff from the company. The long message of this show, warning about the practice of medicine being in bed with and corrupted by the profit motive in medicine is being shown loud and clear in this episode.