Life or Death Who has the Right to Make the Choice
This paper will introduce a case study that results in an ethical dilemma. The ethical dilemma will be
clearly stated including obligations and conflicts. Using the Contemporary Utilitarianism theory I will
analyze the ethical dilemma. Finally I will analyze the same case using an Egoistic approach as an
alternative course of action.
Case Study
An apparent 19 year old male is brought to the emergency room by ambulance in respiratory
failure related to end stage cystic fibrosis. The patient is accompanied by his girlfriend who states that the
patient has a do not resuscitate (DNR) order. As the emergency room physician tries to contact the patients
primary care physician he finds that the patient is under the care of a pediatrician which makes him
suspicious of the DNR request. He confronts the girlfriend about the patients age because the patient is
unable to communicate due to his respiratory condition. The girlfriend breaks down and admits that the
patient is actually 17 years old. The physician immediately intubates the patient in an effort to stabilize his
respiratory condition. The patients respiratory condition is stabilized after a short time and he is extubated.
The patient relates to his nurse that he does not want to be intubated again or placed on a respirator. The
nurse relays this information to the ph!
ysician who at this point does nothing. The patients mother arrives at the emergency department and the
physician explains the patients condition and his request for a DNR order. His mother refuses to sign a
DNR order and this information is explained to the patient by the physician with the mother present. A
discussion insues between the mother and her son and she reluctantly agrees to sign the DNR order.


The physician is informed of her decision and assists the mother in signing the appropriate paperwork. The
patient soon confronts the physician and makes him promise to stick to the DNR order no matter what his
condition, the physician agrees. Shortly after the DNR is completed and all other appropriate paperwork are
in order, the patient goes into respiratory arrest. All the parties involved in this situation are present when
the respiratory arrest occurs. The physician stands by will all intentions of honoring the DNR but within 30
seconds of the arrest, the mother orders the physician to intubate. The physician looks to the patient as he
shakes his head indicating that he does not want to be intubated, the physician also is aware that the patient
will be 18 years old in three weeks.
Ethical Dilemma
Initially it appears as if the dilemma revolves around what the physicians next move should be.
When actually the real dilemma is who owns the rights to make this life or death decision. It is clear what
the patient wants for his course of treatment. It is equally clear what his mother will allow his treatment to
be. Each have equally selfish reasons for wanting their decision to be upheld. The mother does not want to
lose her son and will at all costs keep him alive. She feels he is romanticizing death and has no real concept
of what dying means. Her son lived with cystic fibrosis since age four and has seen many of his friends
placed on ventilators only to later die. He does not want that quality of life in his final days. The physician
is supportive of the patients request but is placed in an awkward legal position if he abides by the patients
request. The nurse who has acted as an intermediary throughout this entire process continues to acts as a
patient advocate an ensur!
e the patients rights are observed and that his wishes are acknowledged.

Ethical Analysis of Dilemma
Contemporary Utilitarianism is divided in to four basic principles, each principle will be used to
analyze this dilemma. The first principle considers which action will provide the greatest happiness for the
greatest number. As we look at the action in this case the patient should not be allowed to discontinue
treatment because his mother and girlfriend do not wish fort him dye. This action does not provide the
greatest good and it appears that the patient looses by a vote of two to one.
The second principle is based on what the consequences of this action are, not what or how its
done but how the chosen action