Saturday, May 07, 2005

Your Truth: New Poor Prognosis

I'm bringing back one of my scenarios for your ethical debate. I will give my two cents after hearing yours.

During hospitalization, a 70-something man is diagnosed with a type of lung cancer with a very poor prognosis. Given the severity of the disease, it is unlikely he will live more than a year. The oncologist has to decide how to approach a treatment plan. The man and his family are having a hard time adjusting to the news of his life threatening illness and are not yet aware of its poor prognosis. Not wanting to take hope away from the family so soon, the doctor decides to treat the cancer with a low-dose chemotherapy. The chemotherapy is not the standard protocol for this type of cancer, but will have significantly less side effects than the standard protocol. The man's disease is so severe that neither type of chemo is likely to halt the progression of his disease.

Was this the best decision? Would it seem more or less humane to tell the man the truth - the severity of his disease, offer both types of chemo or no treatment and tell the man to enjoy the next 12 months that he has? Was taking this course of action more compassionate or unethical?

What do you think? What would you do if you were the doctor? What you want if this patient were you?

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