4 Sep 2022


The Ethical Issue with the Need for ICU beds in Hospitals

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The bed is a critical resource for every patient in need of emergency in every hospital. Bed requirement emerges from the patient’s need in addition to the efficiency of the hospital reduce the length of hospital stay. At one hand, the hospital management can lessen the need for ICU beds through cutting all the unnecessary part of the patient’s hospital stay. According to Mill (1901), the process of evaluating various alternatives based on the principles of moral reasoning and emotional judgment will have a detrimental impact on the patient hence the need to take into consideration various critical factors before coming to a conclusion. Using reasoning, the doctor would try as much to make sense of which patient has a greater need for the bed using logic deductive reasoning (Callahan, 1988). The implication of removing a patient from his or her bed and placing them on the floor to create room for a new patient have strict legal contracts that might affect the outcome of the patient's care. To make an ethical decision on which patient has the greatest need for the bed, Doctor M. should use judgment founded on reasoning and focus on the consequences of the action. 

Doctor M. should assume the responsibility of determining the patient with a greater need for the bed, but this decision should be made based reasoning principle to come up with an ethical judgment. There is the need for the doctor to make this decision using logic where he will have the opportunity to weigh the possible pros and cons rather than focusing on his personal emotions (Gracia, 2003). One of the major pros, in this case, would be the death of the patient because placing the patient on the floor might not serve the purpose of the bed. This point out that choosing which patient should be assigned the bed should be properly reasoned because using emotion as the framework for the decision might result in an uneducated decision that might create a worse situation in the hospital environment. Using emotional decision-making process, the doctor would make the decision based on personal connection to the patient and the situation. It might not be suitable because the physician in such a situation would be pursuing personal interest rather than the patient’s health. 

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Utilitarianism supports the action that maximizes utility which in this case, the actions of the doctor should be for the good of every patient (Callahan, 1988). Focusing on the utilitarian point of view, the decision that the doctor would make to determine the whose need for the bed is greater argues that the uneducated decision is unethical and this is because it would cause patient's suffering or death. Therefore, the goal, in this case, states that there is only one true supreme moral principle which is founded on the notion that we should seek the greatest happiness for a large number of people. The principle of utilitarianism is explicitly founded on the concept that an individual action is right when it is meant to do good for the majority of people and reduce sadness. The doctor's actions should be to promote the patient's stay at the hospital rather than destroy life. Therefore, using utilitarianism, he should be able to promote what can be considered as an affirmative action that would benefit a larger number of people who in this case would include the patient's families, fellow patients and an entire team of medical professional in the clinical institution (Mill, 1901). 

Through using reasons, the doctor would be able to think about choices at hand rationally and at the same time keep any emotion that might emerge in check. One of the primary tasks is to create a balance of the availability capacity with the patient’s competing request for bed hence the need for an informed decision-making process. At one hand, reasoning decision would be focused on many facts such as the situation and condition of the patients. It might be wrong for the doctor to choose a patient based on his emotions because this would only serve the short-term needs of the patient and doctor but overlook long-term consequences of the other patient. This would enable the physician to consider the impact of the decision on the wider population rather than an individual patient whom he or she has in mind (Gracia, 2003). Therefore, the doctor should ensure that he only makes a judgment for the good of the whole community rather than for an individual he thinks needs the bed based on his emotional feelings. Acting justly and taking into consideration aspects of humanity and the human rights of all patients is morally right. The morality of the doctor’s action to assign the bed to the patient stringently will depend on the act committed in addition to the consequences linked to the actions. 

It would have been very unethical for the doctor to allow emotionally susceptible people to influence his judgment. It is because emotional bias might prevent the most deserving patient from accessing the bed and this might worsen his or her condition. Ethics is essentially related to the concept of a doing your duty and fulfilling your obligations as a doctor for the good of the patient. It might be critical to mention that ethical decision making is highly emotional especially when one would be required to express his or her high approval or disapproval of the actions. Therefore, to make the rational decision, the doctor might be required to create a balance between reason and emotions rather than allowing himself to be carried away by emotions (Gracia, 2003). It might not be appropriate to entirely use the emotional principle to determine the patient with the greatest need because emotional judgment might be flawed by some factors among them including; ignorance of the possible consequences that might be experienced if a certain patient is picked over the other. Further, the emotional judgment might emerge when the doctor neglects the vital goal which in this case would include taking into consideration the interest and the needs of the affected patients (Mill, 1901). Emotions engaged in the ethical judgment can be made rational when the doctor bases them on a careful review of the goals and reasoning. 

In conclusion, the essay has critically analyzed the moral decision making on a case study within a hospital situation. To determine the patient with the greatest need for bed, Doctor M. should adopt the criteria of reasons. Through using this strategy, the doctor would be able to weigh all the pros and cons and consider possible consequences of the decision made. At one hand, the essay has established the need to consider the patient’s condition and potential consequences of the decision made concerning the process of assigning the bed to the patient. To support the ethical decision, the essay has focused on utilitarianism theory which holds that the decision made should be founded on the notion that the doctor should choose an action that maximizes utility. In this case, the actions of the physician should be for the good of every patient, the family of the patients in addition to the entire medical practitioners rather than on a single person. 


Callahan, S. (1988). The role of emotion in ethical decision making. Hastings Center Report , 18 (3), 9-14. 

Gracia, D. (2003). Ethical case deliberation and decision making. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy , 6 (3), 227-233. 

Mill, J. S. (1901). Utilitarianism . Longmans, Green and Company. 

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