Patient Safety, Integrity and Virtue Ethics

In the given case, a 15-year-old boy was left psychotic and severely brain-damaged after a wrong-site surgery on the brain. The error was not revealed to the patient’s parents for more than a year. The hospital had to pay a $20 million negligence fine.

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Before analyzing what integrity issues were involved in the case, it is necessary to define the notion, which is too broad and can be interpreted differently in different contexts, making it difficult to state whether it was or was not applied in a particular situation. As far as patient integrity is concerned, there are four key aspects: personal, structural, and social, and conservation of energy (Fawcett, 2017). Personal integrity recognizes the right of the individual to be respected and protected in his/her personal views and determination. In the given case, both the boy’s and his parents’ interests were totally neglected. Structural integrity presupposes that the structure of the patient’s body must not be damaged and all measures are to be taken to prevent its breakdown. The case demonstrates just the opposite. Social integrity implies that the individual is assisted in preserving his/her place in family or community, which is made impossible for a severely brain-damaged boy. Finally, conservation of energy refers to balancing inputs and outputs of energy (although it is not mentioned in the case, it was supposedly done by the hospital staff).

Since it is clear that practically all principles of integrity were violated, criminal charges can and must be considered in this case. It is rather questionable whether the hospital should be held liable for unintended errors. However, the parents should make emphasis on the fact that the information was not disclosed, which deprived their son of the ability to have another surgery or start a recovery therapy.

I chose to respond to this story mainly since I believe that it is crucial to increase patient safety in operating rooms. Moreover, issues of accountability for results are still rather vague. New policies and laws must be introduced to toughen the rules for hospitals in order to prevent such cases in the future.

As for integrity in my clinical setting, all physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are taught to be honest, kind, and ethical to patients since without these core values it is impossible to provide patients with the best quality care. Moreover, they ensure that professionals are practicing with integrity. For instance, being an integrated self, a nurse in my hospital demonstrates consistent views and actions and possesses a strongly determined personal identity and morality.

References

Fawcett, J. (2017). Thoughts about nursing conceptual models and the “Medical Model”. Nursing Science Quarterly, 30(1), 77-80.

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