The rule of rescue describes the powerful human proclivity to rescue identified endangered lives, regardless of cost or risk. Deciding whether or not to perform a decompressive craniectomy as a life-saving or ‘rescue’ procedure for a young person with a severe traumatic brain injury provides a good example of the ethical tensions that occur in these situations. Unfortunately, there comes a point when the primary brain injury is so severe that if the patient survives they are likely to remain severely (...) disabled and fully dependent. The health resource implications of this outcome are significant. By using a web-based outcome prediction model this study compares the long-term outcome and designation of two groups of patients. One group had a very severe injury as adjudged by the model and the other group a less severe injury. At 18 month follow-up there were significant differences in outcome and healthcare requirements. This raises important ethical issues when considering life-saving but non-restorative surgical intervention. The discussion about realistic outcome cannot be dichotomised into simply life or death so that the outcome for the patient must enter the equation. As in other ‘rescue situations’, the utility of the procedure cannot be rationalised on a mere cost–benefit analysis. A compromise has to be reached to determine at what point either the likely outcome would be unacceptable to the person on whom the procedure is being performed or the social utility gained from the rule of rescue intervention fails to justify the utilitarian value and justice of equitable resource allocation. (shrink)
Informed consent is required for any medical procedure although the situations in which it is given are beset by uncertainties and indeterminacies. These make medicolegal scrutiny of such situations very difficult. Although some people find the decision in the Sidaway case incomprehensible because of its continuing regard for a 'professional practice standard' in informed consent, I will argue that an important fact in many cases is the moral integrity of the doctor concerned and the pattern of his practice. This may (...) provide the only morally principled and legally accessible evidence enabling a correct decision to be made in a difficult case. Although the epistemological significance of a professional practice standard is thereby defended the 'prudent patient standard' for what counts as consent is left intact. (shrink)
Decompressive craniectomy is a technically straightforward procedure whereby a large section of the cranium is temporarily removed in cases where the intracranial pressure is dangerously high. While its use has been described for a number of conditions, it is increasingly used in the context of severe head injury. As the use of the procedure increases, a significant number of patients may survive a severe head injury who otherwise would have died. Unfortunately some of these patients will be left severely disabled; (...) a condition likened to the RUB, an acronym for the Risk of Unacceptable Badness. Until recently it has been difficult to predict this outcome, however an accurate prediction model has been developed and this has been applied to a large cohort of patients in Western Australia. It is possible to compare the predicted outcome with the observed outcome at 18 months within this cohort. By using predicted and observed outcome data this paper considers the ethical implications in three cases of differing severity of head injury in view of the fact that it is possible to calculate the RUB for each case. (shrink)
In discussing Disembodied Persons we need to confront two problems:A. Under what conditions would we consider that a person was present in the absence of the normal bodily cues?B. Could such circumstances arise?The first question may be regarded as epistemic and the second as metaphysical.
The ability to feel pain is a property of human beings that seems to be based entirely in our biological natures and to place us squarely within the animal kingdom. Yet the experience of pain is often used as an example of a mental attribute with qualitative properties that defeat attempts to identify mental events with physiological mechanisms. I will argue that neurophysiology and psychology help to explain the interwoven biological and subjective features of pain and recommend a view of (...) pain which differs in important respects from the one most commonly accepted. (shrink)
This paper concerns those patients whose brain is irreversibly damaged to the point where they will never recover significant mental life. I examine the reasons which justify the decision to withhold or discontinue active medical intervention in these patients. They involve the identity, quality of life and agency of those beings whom we value as persons.
I had my accident on the rugby field on July 29, 2000 about 2.00 p.m. during a simple line - out, even before the ball was thrown in. I t just felt like another simple case of concussion , I staggered to the sideline, the coach asked me “what ’s wrong”? He said I told him I just felt sick and to put me back on the field in 10 minutes. Then I collapsed, eventually blacked out and then was rushed (...) to hospital unconscious in an ambulance with them struggling drastically to keep me alive. Af ter three days of being in there, they thought I was alright and were going to send me home. Then it star ted happening. First I nearly collapsed again tak ing a shower . For days the spe - cialists didn’t k now what was wrong with me. M y girlfriend at the time, who had rushed down from Wanak a when she had heard it had happened went mad at the specialists to do something. Af ter six days of going in and out of seizures, finally af ter what seemed like all the tests k nown to man, they said I had suffered several brain stem strokes then one massive major one, which altogether had lef t me diagnosed with the ex tremely rare and unk nown condition only k nown to a few as “ locked in syndrome”. (shrink)
The aim of this paper was to explore the issue of consent when considering the use of a life saving but not necessarily restorative surgical intervention for severe traumatic brain injury. A previous study has investigated the issue amongst 500 healthcare workers by using a two-part structured interview to assess opinion regarding decompressive craniectomy for three patients with varying injury severity. A visual analogue scale was used to assess the strengths of their opinions both before and after being shown objective (...) outcome data. Opinions were assessed in a number of scenarios, one of which was that the participants themselves were the injured party. The implication, which was clearly stated, was whether they would provide consent for the procedure to be performed. The study demonstrated that participants were relatively risk aversive in regards to survival with severe disability especially when the injury was severe and there was high probability of that outcome occurring. This finding was not however universal and a minority of participants would provide consent even when the possibility of survival with severe disability was very high. The obvious difficulty comes when considering consent in patients who are unable to express their wishes. In order to address this issue we propose a model of consent based on a balance of the various factors that seem to be of material relevance. These include the severity of the injury, the willingness or otherwise to accept survival with severe disability and the willingness to “risk” the possibility of an unacceptable outcome in order to achieve an acceptable outcome. (shrink)