Bioethics Blogs

BioethicsTV: 10/11-10/17 – Assaulting demented patients, sex trafficking, and surrogate decision-making

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

An occasional column examining the ethical issues raised in television medical dramas.

On Code Black (Season 2; Episode 3) the most important ethical issue was very brief, not taking more than about 2 minutes of screen time. Dr. Angus Leighton is a resident whose brother is unconscious and connected to life supporting technology after falling out of a helicopter (it is a drama after all). Angus is the named medical power of attorney. However, his father has had his attorney draw up papers that transferred the power of attorney from Angus to the father. The odd thing about this is that no such mechanism exists. In reality, a patient appoints someone to be her/his medical power of attorney in order to make decisions when he or she is no longer able to. There is usually a primary appointee and then secondary (even tertiary) persons named. An appointed proxy can choose not to take on that role, but he or she cannot assign that role to anyone else.

Chicago Med (Season 2, Episode 4). An 82-year-old demented man in distress is brought into the ER by his young girlfriend. He suffers from a large cancerous mass and his son wants no aggressive measures but the girlfriend wants to do everything. The son claims that when his dad was first diagnosed and was not yet demented they discussed his future health care wishes. A family meeting is held consisting of the son, girlfriend, Choi (an ER chief resident), Latham (an attending surgeon), Rose (a surgical fellow), and the hospital attorney (who in the pilot episode said that ethics was useless)..

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.