After years of debate, opinion among bioethicists and medical lawyers seems to have accepted that anticipatory refusals of medical treatment can, and furthermore should, be accorded the same legal status as contemporaneous refusals. But what would be the legal repercussions for a medic who treated an incompetent patient in contravention of such a directive? What remedies would be available to the claimant whose life had been extended contrary to his express wishes? This issue has never been explicitly addressed by the UK courts, but this paper looks at some of the conclusions and inferences we can perhaps draw from other, possible analogous areas of law. It also considers several North American cases that have addressed this issue, and asks what lessons we can learn therefrom.
In response to high prescription drug prices in the United States, several services have attempted to make prescription drugs available directly from Canadian pharmacies, which often can sell the drugs at a significantly cheaper price. Normally, a patient must have his physician become directly involved in this process in order to import the drugs from Canada. Although it is understandable for a physician to want to help a patient in this manner, there are several potential risks for an Oklahoma physician participating in these programs. In addition, there is significant risk the patient may not be getting the drugs prescribed.
Persistent fears about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and whether immunization programs are still needed, have led a significant minority of parents to refuse vaccination. Are parents within their rights when refusing to consent to vaccination? How ought physicians respond? Focusing on routine childhood immunization, we consider the ethical, legal, and clinical issues raised by 3 aspects of parental vaccine refusal: (1) physician counseling; (2) parental decision-making; and (3) continuing the physician-patient relationship despite disagreement. We also suggest initiatives that could increase confidence in immunization programs.
In this article we explain (1) the standard of care that health care providers must meet and (2) how these principles apply to complementary and alternative medicine practitioners. The scenario describes a 14-year-old boy who is experiencing back pain and whose chiropractor performed spinal manipulation but did not recognize or take steps to rule out serious underlying disease-in this case, testicular cancer--either initially or when the patient's condition continued to deteriorate despite treatment. We use chiropractic care for a patient with a sore back as an example, because back pain is such a common problem and chiropracty is a common treatment chosen by both adult and pediatric patients. The scenario illustrates the responsibilities that complementary and alternative medicine practitioners owe patients/parents, the potential for liability when deficient care harms patients, and the importance of ample formal pediatric training for practitioners who treat pediatric patients.
Our goal for this supplemental issue of Pediatrics was to consider what practitioners, parents, patients, institutions, and policy-makers need to take into account to make good decisions about using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat children and to develop guidelines for appropriate use. We began by explaining underlying concepts and principles in ethical, legal, and clinical reasoning and then used case scenarios to explore how they apply and identify gaps that remain in practice and policy. In this concluding article, we review our major findings, summarize our recommendations, and suggest further research. We focus on several key areas: practitioner and patient/parent relationships; decision-making; dispute resolution; standards of practice; hospital/health facility policies; patient safety; education; and research. Ethical principles, standards, and rules applicable when making decisions about conventional care for children apply to decision-making about CAM as well. The same is true of legal reasoning. Although CAM use has seldom led to litigation, general legal principles relied on in cases involving conventional medical care provide the starting point for analysis. Similarly, with respect to clinical decision-making, clinicians are guided by clinical judgment and the best interests of their patient. Whether a therapy is CAM or conventional, clinicians must weigh the relative risks and benefits of therapeutic options and take into account their patient's values, beliefs, and preferences. Consequently, many of our observations apply to conventional and CAM care and to both adult and pediatric patients.