4 Sep 2022


Mr. Simpson’s Flu Shot: Ethical Issue in Medicine

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Academic level: College

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Words: 1184

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The issue of ethics in the field of medicine is a critical area that will usually dictate whether or not the practicing physicians have conducted themselves to the best interests of the patients at hand. The eighty year old patient is seen to have a major health concern as his lungs have been weakened due to constant infection by the flu virus. This has led to increased problems including the bronchitis that has been an after effect of the flu virus. According to the medical professionals, it is possible that Mr. Simpson could die if he suffers again from the flu virus. However, he refuses to get the flu shot due to his belief that it could potentially lead to his infection with the virus. The physicians give him the flu shot anyway after consent from the family members. The case on Mr. Simpson has been noted to present the numerous ethical issues that could affect the physicians who have played a hand in providing the flu shot to the man. It is evident that the issue of autonomy is the most prevalent in the case. Mr. Simpson is denied the right to make a decision on treatment he would like to receive. 


It is presented that Mr. Simpson in a healthy man but for his weak lungs that have resulted from the side effects of constant flu shots. The physicians are seen to have concern for the future health condition of their patient. Mr. Simpson does not present to have any form of mental illness despite being a senior citizen. As such, it is necessary that the doctors consult him before undertaking any significant treatment option for him. Through autonomy, the patient is offered the opportunity to determine the various treatment options that they may prefer before the medical professionals continue with the effective measures in line with the decision. In this case, it is evident that the physicians have deprived the elderly man his right and in so doing have breached ethical standards in medicine. The physicians have consulted with the family of the patient and understood that through lying to him they could provide the essential treatment that could possibly save his life before the flu season. 

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The case study has presented that the physicians have created the required conditions that would ensure that the patient makes an autonomous decision. Hereby, the patient has received the information on the flu shot and how it works. The medical professionals have explained that the flu shot could not be a means of contracting the virus. This is based on medical research that has indicated that the shot contains inactive strains of the virus. The medical professionals have been clear in stating that the flu shot is an effective means of ensuring that the patient does not get infected in the next flu season. The patient has been seen to reject the physician’s advice based on the belief that he will definitely get infected. I t is clear that the patient does not want to die as he desires to get an alternative preventive measure that will ensure he does not get infected come the next season of the flu virus. As such, it is important that the physicians stand by the decision of the patient (Barrett, Ricco, Wallace, Kiefer & Rakel, 2016). 


The ethical action of beneficence is seen to be an effective measure that the medical practitioners can undertake in a bid to save the life of the patient at hand. Beneficence is identified as the actions undertaken by medical practitioners to alleviate pain or harm that may be presented as risky to the patient. According to the ethical standards of medicine, medical practitioners are required to undertake the necessary actions that will ensure that the best interests of the patient are upheld. It is noted that the patient has presented a serious case of bronchitis and weak lungs due to constant infection by the flu virus. However, the patient has repeatedly indicated that he does not desire to be given the flu shot as he believes it could lead to contracting the illness (Fourie, 2015). His ill-informed beliefs have been noted to lack medical background and have created the poor judgment of the patient. 

The case study indicates that the physicians at hand have acted in beneficence to the best interests of Mr. Simpson. In this case, the beliefs of Mr. Simpson that he will become infected by the flu virus through the shot given are noted by the physicians as a case of delusional beliefs. As such, the medical practitioners have undertaken upon themselves to consult with the family members of the patient whereby they have approved of the medical treatment. The medical practitioners through this action have been seen to stray from the ethics of medical standards as they have denied Mr. Simpson his autonomous right to make the decision on the treatment method he would likely prefer (Fourie, 2015). An ethicist who would argue for beneficence would indicate that despite the clear information on treatment methods, the patient maintains beliefs against it that are unfounded. As a result, by lying to the patient they have acted in the best interest as their action could possibly save his life in the near future. 


There is also the argument on non-maleficence whereby medical practitioners are required to undertake actions that will ensure they act with least harm towards the patient. In this case, the physicians are instructed to refrain from undertaking medical interventions that are guided with malice. The medical practitioners are also guided by this ethical standard to refrain from providing interventions that have proven to be ineffective to the potential health outcome of the patient (Inggs & Christensen, 2015). The medical research studies carried out on flu shots have not indicated signs of potential infection among patients receiving the vaccine. Hereby, the action of medical practitioners to give the patient the flu shot to the patient without his consent is seen as ethically upright. The potential benefits of the treatment provided outweigh the burdens that come with it. 

The action of the doctors in taking the non-maleficence action is identified as unethical as it deprives the patient from making an informed decision. According to the ethical standards, non-maleficence actions can only be undertaken once the patient has decided that the benefits of the treatment received outweigh the burdens that may be incurred. However, in this case, the patient believes that the treatment offered by the doctors does not offer him an option towards bettering his health condition. The patient has opted against taking the flu shot and instead will take a risk in avoiding the flu when its season comes by. 


From the above discussion it is observed that the process of decision making in the field of medicine is one that could cause distress among the numerous practitioners. Medical practitioners are struggling between providing the patient with the appropriate treatment that will ensure an improved health condition and allowing the patient to practice his right to autonomy of making an informed decision making. The process of decision making is made worse off when the family members are also included whereby they have understood that the patient is likely to accept other shots other than the flu shot. As a result, they provide their consent to the physicians to administer the shot but in the process lie to the patient. This is a clear indication of a breach in ethics that govern the clinical field. 


Barrett, B., Ricco, J., Wallace, M., Kiefer, D., & Rakel, D. (2016). “Communicating statin evidence to support shared decision-making.” BMC Family Practice , 171-9. doi:10.1186/s12875-016-0436-9 

Fourie, C. (2015). “Moral Distress And Moral Conflict In Clinical Ethics.” Bioethics , 29(2), 91-97 7p. doi:10.1111/bioe.12064 

Inggs, R., & Christensen, M. (2015). “To Feed or Not to Feed: Using an Ethical Decision Making Model to Support Patient Choice.” Singapore Nursing Journal , 42(3), 17-21. 

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