Legally, the case study puts the physician in a very sensitive position that requires one to think critically to decide what the physician should do or should not do about the issue. On one hand, if the physician contravenes the law, the patient in a court of law might prosecute her or him. On the other hand, if the physician does not report the matter or warn about it, he/she will appear like a failure in medical profession. However, as the physician strikes a balance between these two competing issues, he/she should not breach client’s confidentiality (Boyd 26). This means that the physician should not only rely on professional code of conduct, but he/she should also rely on the law when resolving the ethical dilemma that faces him/her. The physician has a good medical history of the patient. Indeed, the physician had previously treated the patient for a sexually transmitted disease. In addition, the physician has now diagnosed the patient with genital herpes. The physician is also aware that the patient is sexually active and that he/she has several sex partners.
However, the law does not allow the physician to disclose what he/she knows about the patient to third parties. This is irrespective of the fact that the physician has a duty of protecting or warning the client and third parties about the issue. In my opinion, the physician can warn the patient of the risk of engaging in sex. This will give the patient the freedom to make an informed decision on the issue. From a legal viewpoint, the facts in the case study try to illustrate the origins of some of the current laws that look somewhat controversial yet they are critical in our lives. In addition, the facts in the case study try to justify the course of action the physician may take in relation to the ethical dilemma he/she faces.
From an ethical viewpoint, the case study highlights the various stages that physicians go through before they decide what they should do or should not do when they face ethical dilemmas. It is evident that the patient may put other people at risk if he/she engages in sex with those people. However, even if the physician has the duty of reporting or even warning of possible harm, the physician does not have the right to disclose the information he/she has about the client to third parties. In relation to this fact, the physician has to evaluate his/her course of action in relation to what the law says. Looking at what the law says, the law does not permit the physician to breach the client’s confidentiality (Burns et al 417). It is true that the client’s medical condition is a threat to other people and that the physician may have a critical role to play in this matter. However, professionalism does not allow the physician to breach the client’s confidentiality. Ethically, the facts in this case study are critical because they help potential physicians and other people to evaluate what they should do when resolving ethical dilemmas.
Legally, this case study demonstrates that physicians have the duty of protecting their mentally ill clients. An overview of the case study demonstrates that the staff at the hospital’s emergency department is aware that Mary is capable of committing suicide because she has expressed it to him/her out rightly. However, this staff does not take the necessary steps to ensure that Mary does not commit suicide. Instead, the staff only relies on what Mary tells him/her after spending twelve hours in the 5150 hold. In relation to this fact, it is the responsibility of mental health professionals to ensure that mentally ill people do not cause harm when it is evident that they intend to do so or when it is clear that they are capable of doing so. This case study justifies the law that gives mental health professionals the right to determine when they should commit their clients to involuntary commitments. On one hand, the case study justifies what the staff in question did, but on the other hand, it disqualifies what the staff did even after establishing that Mary was likely to commit suicide. Apart from protecting clients, the facts in the case study also demonstrates that mental health professionals have the duty of reporting possible harms from their clients. These two duties demonstrate that mental health professional can confidently breach confidentiality of their clients when it is necessary to do so (Pozgar 356).
Ethically, the case study demonstrates that mental health professionals have the responsibility of determining when they should or should not breach the confidentiality of their clients. The case study indicates that professionalism may sometimes override confidentiality when medical officers can justify their courses of actions. For this reason, the staff at the hospital’s emergency department was justified for holding Mary for twelve hours. In addition, the staff would have been justified to keep Mary in the hospital and initiate an involuntary commitment rather than release her to go home when it was not clear whether she had recovered or not.
Boyd, Mary. Psychiatric Nursing. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007. Print.
Burns, Lawton. et al. Shortell and Kaluzny’s Health Care Management: Organization, Design, and Behavior. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Pozgar, George. Legal Aspects of Health Care Administration. Sudbury, Mass: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012. Print.