A large part of ethics deals with the possibility of differing opinions on an ethical issue or problem. Many healthcare facilities use ethics committees when faced with ethical issues to sort through the different opinions and submit a decision.
Imagine you are part of a nine-member ethics committee at the local hospital. At your committee meeting, the committee is presented with the issue of a patient who has been on life support for the past six months and has not shown any signs of improvement or the ability to survive without life support. The patient has appointed two healthcare surrogates who have opposing opinions on whether to withdraw life support. Answer the following questions:
- What are the major ethical issues in this case?
- What laws, if any, are applicable to the decision?
- How should the ethics committee render a decision in this case?
- If there are differences of opinion among committee members, how should the committee deal with the differences?