The primary role of physicians in hospitals is to help save lives to the best of their abilities. Life support systems introduce ethical concerns and legal issues in the medical practice. Life support systems are usually regarded as a form of treatment that may assist the patient to recover and then the patient can be nursed into normal health when the life support system is removed. Currently, medical lawsuits against hospitals and physicians have made hospitals be more careful when dealing with issues of life support systems. According to Humphrey (2004, p46), physicians have opted to use other non-controversial approaches such as the provision of extraordinary treatment despite the fact that the patient may be in a vegetative state.
Physicians strive had to protect and restore a patient’s health. Hence removing the life supports systems may generate negative reception from colleagues. Physicians that are involved in the removal of life support systems are branded agents of killing. Additionally, the physicians are usually faced with other personal problems such as guilt. They may feel as if they have murdered a patient. Thus, in certain cases, courts may provide support to the removal of life support systems but may be met with opposition from physicians and hospitals. Personal values of a physician compel him or indicate to him that any action, which may not support the life of a dying patient may constitute to murder based on medical codes of practice, which mandate physicians to provide treatment and save lives. Most physicians see themselves as healers and their training does not allow them to just step back and allow the patient to die.
Physicians are usually in a position to ascertain whether further treatment or a life support system may be warranted for a dying patient. If they believe that the patient can recover, physicians will support the use of life support systems. The same physicians may be also in the best position to declare that use of life support system may be futile. However, the increase in extraordinary medical advances has convinced some of the families of patients under life support systems to continue insisting that their loved ones remain on the life support system. In such cases, physicians can only oblige with the family’s request since if they may refuse may be sued for not acting in the patient’s best interest.
The physician’s decision to withdraw life support system depends on certain personal characteristics of the physician. Aspects such as age, religion and the duration of practice after graduation contribute to the decision a physician makes about the removal of life support systems. According to Jeremias and Brown (2010, p17), factors such as number of ICU beds, type of hospital and the area of specialization of the physician contribute to the final decision that the physician makes concerning the removal of life support systems. All these factors introduce biasness in the physician’s decision. Such cases may be used against the physician in a court of law and this may undermine his or her medical practice and level of professionalism. To avoid such situations, most physicians have opted out of making decisions concerning the removal of life support systems. The most common option or solution to such situations is for a physician to provide a medical opinion based on facts and let the decision solely be made by the family members of the patient.
Humphrey, D. (2004). Contemporary medical office procedures. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Learning.
Jeremias, A., & Brown, D. L. (2010). Cardiac intensive care. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier.