Bioethics Blogs

BioethicsTV: Week of May 20 – Assisted suicide, public health crisis management, and making promises

Chicago Med
In its first season finale (episode 18), Dr. Downey arrives in the emergency department in distress—he is bleeding from his liver as a side effect from his cancer treatment. When he does not awake from the anesthesia, Dr. Rhodes, his protégé, suspects a stroke during surgery. A CT scan shows that Downey did not have a stroke, but rather has a large, inoperable brain tumor—his cancer has metastasized. We are told that his future prognosis is grim and that he is in unrelievable pain. Instead, he asks Rhodes to help him die. This request is a reference back to episode 11 when Rhodes removed a patient’s LVAD at the patient’s request and Choi accuses him of performing an assisted suicide.

Rhodes tells Downey that he can’t help him die. In Illinois there is no legal assisted suicide and the AMA has come out against doctors being involved in that process. In a later scene, Rhodes brings a necklace of puka shells to Downey, a reminder of his love of all things Hawaiian. They have a touching moment of saying goodbye. Then Rhodes leaves the room and seconds later, Downey codes. As the staff rushes into the room, Rhodes yells that he is DNR. The episode ends without any questions. But the strange timing left me with the question of whether Rhodes did assist Downey in a suicide. One possibility is that some of the puka shells actually contained live organisms. The cone snail (which creates the puka shell) is venomous and some have venom that can kill a human.

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.