Alice Dreger reflects on the role of Twitter in medical ethics.
What happened this week has had me thinking about Twitter and what it means to the ethical culture of medicine. First thing Wednesday morning, I found a post by Dr. Alison Barrett (@DrAlisonBarrett). It read, “Anyone else worried about the ethics of this? Anyone?”
Barrett’s question grabbed me, because I try to listen when someone asks, “Does anyone care about this medical ethics travesty?” So I hit the link.
It was an essay at KevinMD.com, a blogging website, written by “Hope Amantine,” a pseudonym for someone claiming to be a surgeon in rural America. Amantine described a “teaching moment” from her own training, when a mentor, impatient with Amantine’s hesitance during a surgery because Amantine was afraid of accidentally cutting the patient’s inferior vena cava, purposefully cut a 1-inch hole in that very vessel, leaving Amantine to deal with it. A cut like that can kill you, quickly.
After I finished reading it and pulled my eyebrows off the ceiling, I retweeted Barrett’s tweet, adding, “Jesus. How is this not attempted murder in the OR?” I copied @Skepticalscalpel, my go-to guy for surgical ethics. He retweeted it, adding, “If this really happened, it’s a huge ethical issue. I’m appalled.”
The thing quickly took off. I tried directly engaging Amantine, who then had an account, @HopeAmantine, which she has since turned off. I asked her, “How is what you describe here not a crime that required reporting to authorities?” She asked what crime?
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.