ETHICAL PROBLEMS: Awkward conversation

November 2004 
Volume 34  Number 11
Pages 66 - 66
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© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Volume 34(11)             November 2004             p 66 Awkward conversation [ETHICAL PROBLEMS: COMMUNICATION]


I was disturbed to hear a physician discussing a proposed amputation with one of my patients, an elderly woman with diabetes who'd developed two gangrenous toes. In seeking her consent to amputate them, the physician said brusquely, “You're 87 years old, Barbara. Why do you care about two little toes?” The patient, who's alert and competent, seemed angry and refused to give her consent. I don't know what's going to happen now .

I feel as if I should have said something, but what? —J.W., MICH.

Situations like this involve a lot of interpersonal dynamics. I know that I'd feel awkward confronting a physician in front of a patient. I usually wait until he leaves the ...

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