Ethics in the Medical Field: Sofia's Case Study

Ethics in the Medical Field: Sofia's Case Study

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Defining the subject of ethics is a complex task, as are the issues faced in an ethical dilemma. Ethics is often referred to as ‘moral philosophy’, which searches for answers to moral questions such as what is justified and virtuous. Other definitions of ethics include meta ethics, which examines the “nature of morality” itself and what we mean by specific moral terms, such as “good and bad”. Normative ethics is concerned with what we ought to do (Banks, 2006. pp. 4-5).
This essay will discuss what happened versus what other professionals thought ought to happen in the work involving Sofia, a 15 year female with an incurable heart condition. The main issue at stake was the insistence by human services professionals that Sofia should be made aware of her own life expectancy against the wishes of her parents. This work will argue how and why decisions were made to keep the truth from Sofia and the impact his had on Sofia’s satisfaction and enjoyment of life. From this stance, the concept of virtue ethics will be explored in context of working to further Sofia’s needs and wishes. Conversley, alternative concept of ethics, such as Kantian and Utilitarian approaches will be considered in light of the obvious power imbalances which existed between Sofia’s parents, my own practice versus Sofia. Thompson (2006) argues that social work can lead to “potential empowerment or potential oppression” because at the core of its foundations lie “elements of care and control”(p. 14). However, I will argue that power imbalances in this instance did not necessarily amount to Sofia’s disempowerment. With all due respect to the temporal element to the ethical dilemma, and exploration of empowerment will be discussed in context of the real time opportunities provided for Sofia’s enjoyment.

Sofia has experienced multiple surgeries and visits a hospice four times a year. The medical profession has made clear to her parents that Sofia’s time is limited although so far she has defied medical opinion and survived many more years than was expected. She frequently uses oxygen and a wheel chair when tired. Her physical development has been hampered by her condition and as such she is very small for her age.

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Her emotional maturity and articulate manner further emphasises the frustrations she feels with being treated as a child by people who do not know her real age. In the words of Sofia’s parents “she is seeking independence and who are we to prevent that?” After her last admission to hospital, Sofia has clearly expressed that she does not wish to discuss her health as she would prefer to have some fun and be cheerful.
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