“In testing a patient’s blood, a doctor learns that the patient has AIDS. He tells the patient, who says, ‘I don’t want my wife to know I have the disease.’ Should the doctor honor the patient’s request, or should he tell the wife?”
It is the moral obligation of the doctor to protect the patient and act according to his desires. The above case is an issue of professional ethics where a doctor is obliged to keep the patients information private and act according to his desires. There is however the issue of ensuring that other people around the patient are safe and that are aware of the measures they need to take to ensure their safety as well as the safety of the patient. AIDS as we know it is a serious case and is basically an advanced stage of HIV. A part from the fact that the patient needs to be in constant medication and good diet to prolong his life, he also needs to get some moral support from those closest to him, which includes his wife. However, we realize from the scenario that the results have not only traumatized the patient but now feels worried for the wife. He might have known the consequences that will accrue if the wife came to know that they are victims of the deadly pestilence.
The doctor will have to appreciate the fact that in as much as he would wish for the wife to know, he cannot just act contrary to the wishes of his patient. On the other hand, it is also his moral obligation to ensure that the wife is a ware of this condition, which will also facilitate treatment for him. Denying the wife such vital information will mean being denied the medical treatment and counseling that are so crucial to her at such a time (May 93). We may term the move by the husband as selfish considering the fact that he is aware of his condition and hence access to medical facilities that he need. The wife however, will have to suffer in ignorance because she is not aware of her health condition. With all this questions in mind, the doctor, with all her skills and experience will take measures of convincing his patient on the importance of his wife being aware of the condition so that they both obtain the required treatment.
There is need for the doctor to understand the fears that he has in having the wife know. One of them could be the fact that the wife may not be able to handle the news and feel so devastated. This is the situation, which the husband will not want to see his wife in. there could be the issue of trust and faithfulness, which the wife has been enjoying from the wife, which could be broken with such news. This may mean separation, which will ultimately affect their family unit. This are the fears that the doctor needs to identify and ultimately know how to deal with the issue. The patient will only need to be assured that the doctor will handle the case in the best way possible that will ensure that their marriage still stand strong even as they go through treatment.
Aristotle is one of the philosophers that made reasonable contributions on the issue of moral ethics. His emphasis is on doing good to satisfy humanity. He believed in the fact that every human being had a right to be a happy, happiness that could only be derived from doing good. There is that inner satisfaction that a person obtains when they have engaged in an act to not only develop their character but also improve humanity (May 84). With this in mind, Aristotle would not advise the doctor not to reveal patients information to his wife without much consideration. One of the things that will have to be considered by Aristotle is what the doctor feels is morally right to do. The second issue is doing what will be good for the patient and then top others around him, which is his wife.
We realize that in as much as the doctor would have wished to keep such information confidential, he will not be at ease because somebody will be suffering at his expense. On the other hand, keeping the information may also be satisfactory to the patient who might have calculated the adverse consequences that would occur to the family once the information is leaked. Since the doctor is in a position to influence the decision of the patient, Aristotle would advise him to relax, take one-step at a time but ensure that the wife knows. Just as I suggested above, Aristotle would pump sense into the patient and seek to clear and address any fears that he has in having his wife know. After pouring out such fears, the doctor would again tell him the dangers that he is exposing his family to by deciding not to let his wife know. All this will be evaluated in terms of what will be the best thing to do and an agreement that will satisfy both the patient and the doctor.
The decision that will be ultimately be taken will depend on what will make the doctor satisfied about his professional counsel and what will also convince the patient that all will be fine. In doing this, the doctor will be free from any feelings of guilt for not taking the necessary steps to save the patient and his family (Ruggiero 175). The patient will also have adequate information and knowledge that will enable him takes the right steps in terms of either letting his wife know or not. In the end, what I ultimately feel is that the wife will have to know about the condition of the husband, which affects her directly. As long as the matter is handled in a professional manner, the wife will come to terms with the condition. With continual advice, they will learn to live positive and healthy life.
Moral ethics goes beyond personal fulfillment and satisfaction and has to look at the general good of the society. In as much as happiness is a personal decision, the actions of another person are likely to dissatisfy more people, which will hence prompt them to sacrifice. Morality is also governed by both personal and professional ethics, which will prompt the doctor, and the patient to reach an agreement on what is best for them. The patient is at the mercies of the doctor, which should make the doctor use such privilege to convince him to tell the wife even if it means the doctor himself breaking the news.
May, Hope. Aristotle's Ethics: Moral Development and Human Nature. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010.
Ruggiero, Vincent, Ryan, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, 4th ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co., 199. pp 174-175.