What Is an Example of a Medical Ethics Dilemma?

Patient autonomy is the most basic right of every individual and an example of a medical ethics dilemma. Autonomy means “self-rule” and involves the right of an individual to make choices that may go against a physician’s treatment advice concerning treatment, or non-treatment, of an existing health issue.

One example is the case of a woman diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a bulge in the wall of the aorta, which will likely cause her death if it should burst. Doctors advise an immediate surgical procedure that will require making an small incision. However, the woman is an exotic dancer and fears that a scar will negatively impact her means of making a living. When she refuses to give her consent for the surgery, those in authority insist that the life-threatening risk is non-negotiable. Declaring that the woman is not in her right mind, surgeons order that she be anesthetized. They proceed with the operation and successfully repair the aneurysm. As a result, the patient files a lawsuit against the hospital for millions of dollars. Patient autonomy issues are often daunting ethical gauntlets for health care administrators, who must weigh economic factors and dwindling financial resources when making decisions concerning patient care.