Bioethics Blogs

BioethicsTV: The Night Shift Needs More Sleep

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Summer is a slow time for television and especially for the medical drama. One show that has been filling this warm weather slot is The Night Shift, a fairly uninteresting and poorly done drama. Frankly, I only started watching it because of its setting in a fictitious hospital in my former home of San Antonio. However, this week’s episode (Season 3, Episode 5: Get Busy Livin’) raised several ethical issues and resolved them poorly.

First, a patient is in the final stages of cancer. She has accepted her death and even has plans for one final vacation, but she runs into a physician who is not willing to let her go. The patient has agreed to a DNR and is firm in her decision that she’s done enough to fight her disease. She watched her mother die of breast cancer just a few years and does not want that kind of suffering. The physician actually colludes with a pharmaceutical rep who lies about the patient’s recent medical record in order to qualify for an experimental clinical trial. Perhaps this physician was absent on the day that clinical trials were taught in medical school, but in most trials there is no guarantee that the patient will be helped by the new drug. Some trials exist just to determine the side effects or whether there is any help. And what the physician also clearly did not know is that being in a randomized clinical trial does not mean the patient will receive the experimental agent—the patient could end up with placebo (which in some cases is better since placebo has fewer side effects).

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.