Shall parent / patient wishes be fulfilled in any case? A series of 32 ethics consultations: from reproductive medicine to neonatology

BMC Medical Ethics 20 (1):4 (2019)
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Abstract

Questions concerning the parent/ patient’s autonomy are seen as one of the most important reasons for requesting Ethics Consultations. Respecting parent/ patient’s autonomy also means respecting the patient’s wishes. But those wishes may be controversial and sometimes even go beyond legal requirements. The objective of this case series of 32 ECs was to illustrate ethically challenging parent / patients’ wishes during the first stages of life and how the principle of patient’s autonomy was handled. The case series has a qualitative retrospective approach. A documentary sheet was designed de novo and information was gained from EC minutes and medical charts. The cases originate from the following specialties: reproductive medicine, obstetrics and neonatology as well as two interdisciplinary cases. Through the structured EC minutes aspects of patient / parents’ wishes could be identified explicitly. Overall the patient / parents’ wishes were not supported in 61% of the cases. Central reasons for rejection of patient / parent wishes were mainly the protection of the best interest of the unborn / new-born child as well as the rejection of clinical approaches that were regarded as being substandard treatment. The study shows that treatment decisions in reproductive medicine, obstetrics and neonatology raise substantial ethical questions leading to the request for ethics consultation. The systematic case series presented here gives insight into the ethical reflection carried out to support the clinicians in their decision-making and counselling. It shows that clinicians, after using ethics consultation, make deliberate decisions that do not “automatically” fulfil the treatment requests of the patients and parents.

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