Ok, Lead Surgeon, it is time to do what you do best! There is a lot at stake. The decision must be made almost immediately. Like all actions, you will need to write your decision into medical documentation before you begin. Yes, that means YOU! In the limited time before you would begin surgery, you need to consider the cases; the technical issues involved also, and write a Memorandum for the Record to document what decision you made and what considerations you included in your process. This will be on the record, so it needs to be thorough in case it needs to justify your actions at a later date.
You are the Lead Surgeon in a major hospital, and by virtue of your seniority you are also the key decision maker for transplant cases. Right now you have three people who are waiting and hoping for a suitable heart to become available. Your cell phone rings suddenly, and you are notified that a heart has become available-meaning that you need to make a quick yet sound decision about which patient will receive the heart and then schedule surgery for today.
Male, 55 year old family man, mid-level manage Jerry, a father of 3 children and at the age of 55, is in the Ward awaiting a suitable heart for transplanting. His wife Joanie is a stay at home mother with no education beyond high school and no career. Jerry is the middle level manager at a carpet distributing business and 5 year short of his retirement eligibility. Jerry and Joanie have three teenage children aged 14, 16, and 19. The 19 year old is a sophomore at college; the 14 year old is mildly autistic, and the 16 year old is an astronaut wannabe. If Jerry gets the heart, his chances of living another 10-15 years are very high. His heart is damaged due to the use of steroids in his early 20s when he was involved with bodybuilding before the dangers of steroid use were fully known.
Female, 12 year old lifelong health issues Lisa is one of those precocious girls – a doll-like girl at the edge of becoming a teenager. She reads voraciously and yet likes the activities of a younger girl playing with her Barbie Doll. She has suffered health issues all her life due to various viral infections and a lupus-like immune deficiency. Her heart was damaged during a nasty bout with pneumonia last year and actually stopped for a brief period. Her mother knew to begin CPR on her or she would have died there. Even with a transplant, her chances of surviving into her 20s are not good. She is the only child in the family, and they cannot bear more children. Her parents will do anything for her, and they have offered to donate $2 million to the hospital’s construction of specialized facilities if she can get a heart soon enough. Her father is also a noted oncologist working in the same hospital but in a different department.
Male, 38 year old homeless drug abuser Ozzy is a single 38 year old man with no family. He has lived homeless and in shelters for at least a decade. He was brought to the Hospital through the work of a local charity that assists such men with no assets or insurance. His heart condition is due to continued abuse and overdosing of crack cocaine, and without a transplant he will not live out the month. In recent months, has become involved with troubled teens at a local homework and tutoring hangout, and he has provided the wisdom and insight that only an abuser can know about where life can go. He has signed a contract with the same charity that, if he gets the transplant, he will continue working at the after-school homework hangout as a counselor-mentor for at least one year after the transplant. With the transplant and successful staying off the drugs, he could live another 10 years – maybe more. Recidivism is a severe risk with his history of abuse, and if he returns to using crack he would quickly damage the new heart and die within months.
Male, 35 year old Lisa’s Dad, the oncologistDr. Jonathan Doe is Lisa’s father. He has offered the hospital $2 Million Dollars in exchange that his daughter gets the heart transplant. He is an up-and-coming oncologist in the same hospital. He is loyal and totally committed to Lisa; while not obnoxious and pushy, his presence is keenly felt around the professional community in the Hospital and there is a need for his $2 Million.
Dr. Jonathan Doe is Lisa’s father. He has offered the hospital $2 Million Dollars in exchange that his daughter gets the heart transplant. He is an up-and-coming oncologist in the same hospital. He is loyal and totally committed to Lisa; while not obnoxious and pushy, his presence is keenly felt around the professional community in the Hospital and there is a need for his $2 Million.
Your assignment is to make the decision using utilitarian ethics–as this week’s classwork and discussions have brought you that skill–and then to write it up in the form of a Memorandum for the hospital records. Remember that this record could be reviewed by the Peer Review Committee or the Hospital Trustees at a later date. This is Utilitarian Week in our course. Employ what you have learned from J. S. Mill and Utilitarianism this week AND one other of our course’s ethicists (of your choice) from earlier weeks. The Memorandum should be at least two double-spaced pages with a maximum of three pages, in memorandum form, .
One of the great ongoing situations that calls for ethical decision making is the reality that there is almost always a greater need for something than there is a supply to meet the need.
For our assignment and scenario, the demand is the life-and-death situation of the need for transplant-able organs and the rather small and transitory supply. Hard decisions need to be made, and there is little time to think things through. These are emergency situations.
Transplant able organs become available on short notice–usually because a donor has died for reasons unrelated to the organ. They need to be removed and transplanted very quickly because they only remain fresh for a limited period. Then there is the whole complicated issue of tissue type matching. There is also an ongoing concern about how long recipients can wait.