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Physician-Patient Ethical Dilemma Analysis


Ethical dilemmas normally occur when a problematic healthcare issue cannot be addressed to satisfy all the involved parties or when choosing from equally unpleasant options. Most ethical dilemmas arise from shared decision-making, inappropriate resource allocation, practitioner-client connection, and maintaining privacy. Healthcare administrators should be focused on overcoming ethical dilemmas by making the right decisions and policies to enhance a smooth flow of activities within medical facilities (Rainer, Schneider & Lorenz, 3, p. 3446-3448). The paper analyzes a physician-patient ethical dilemma case study from a leading administrator’s perspective and identifies the related ethical and moral theories, ethical concerns, and potential solutions.

Preparing a Brief from the Perspective of a Lead Administrator Dealing with an Ethical Dilemma

Handling ethical dilemmas requires healthcare administrators to work closely with other healthcare specialists to offer exceptional solutions to all problems (Rainer et al., 3, p. 3449-3451). Ethical dilemmas also require support from the code of ethics, which guides healthcare professionals to demonstrate ethical behaviors and make the right decisions. Dealing with ethical dilemmas requires providing counseling services and building an environment that allows individuals to speak up. This permits individuals to reveal their concerns without fear and acquire the proper support to handle difficult situations.

One of the case studies regarding physician-patient encounters revolves around treatment refusal by a patient leading to an allegation of a delayed cancer diagnosis. A male patient aged 50 years was presented to a family physician (FP) while complaining about pain in the flank and back. After carrying out urine tests, blood traces were noticed, forcing the physician to refer the patient to a urologist. The patient declined a referral appointment from the staff and instead chose to make the appointment by himself but ended up not seeing the urologist. The patient returned to the FP with upper respiratory infection symptoms, and after diagnosis, he was offered the correct medicines to use (Norcal Group, 2, para. 1-3). The patient still refused to see the urologist, and the FP revealed the possible risks of failing to do so, such as acquiring kidney diseases.

The patient made a third visit where he had gross hematuria and pain symptoms and finally decided to see a urologist. The patient was found to have renal cell carcinoma, which prompted him and his spouse to file a claim against the FP, asserting a delayed cancer diagnosis (Norcal Group, 2, para. 4-5). However, the expert physicians found out that the FP had fully informed the patient compelling the case to be dismissed.

Applying Ethical and Moral Theories to the Case Study

Based on the case study, ethical and moral theories can be applied to demonstrate whether the various actions were right or wrong. One of the theories that can be used concerning the case study is the deontology ethical theory, which compels individuals to comply with their duties and obligations when making decisions (Amer, 1, p. 189-191). The FP had a duty towards the patient, which enabled the provision of the appropriate care to overcome his health condition. The second theory that can be applied is the utilitarian theory, which reveals the capability of an individual to forecast the possible impacts of an action to prevent harm (Amer, 1, p. 189-190). The physician offered the patient the potential consequences of avoiding the recommended treatment procedures to trigger him to seek the proper care. Consequently, the physician was ethically correct to disclose the implications of the patient’s actions to encourage him to overcome the disorder at the right time.

Ethical Concerns and Potential Outcomes in the Selected Ethical Dilemma

The ethical concerns in this case study revolve around the decision by the FP to refer the patient to the urologist for a further checkup but later choose to allow the patient to make the appointment. After the FP realized that the patient had refused to be referred to the urologist, he should have used a different approach. The FP should have reached out to the urologist electronically without informing the patient. This would have ensured that the urologist carried out checkups on the patient, but it would have infringed his autonomy leading to a conflict despite taking action for the patient’s good.

A Solution to Mitigate the Issues Raised in the Selected Ethical Dilemma

To mitigate the ethical dilemma, the FP would have provided the patient with an opportunity to speak out to reveal why he was not interested in the medications and treatment procedures. This would allow the FP to fully comprehend the patient’s needs and demands and identify the correct solutions (Zhu, Zhang & Lu, 4, p. 230-234). As a result, the FP and patient would have reached a consensus, thus taking pleasant actions for all parties and preventing unnecessary allegations.

Defending the Solution from an Ethical Standpoint

Physicians should always ensure that patients are well informed about their health conditions and the needed steps to overcome them. However, physicians should also allow the patients to speak up to determine their needs to offer accurate care and avoid conflicts. This provides autonomy to patients to make the choices of care they want to maximize their satisfaction levels (Zhu et al., 4, p. 233-237). If the patient refuses to get medical care, the physician should ensure that the patient signs the refusal to care form to avoid possible lawsuits.


Healthcare professionals should always concentrate on overcoming ethical dilemmas by observing the code of ethics, collaborating with other specialists, and engaging in counseling to comprehend the right things to do. Some of the puzzles are necessitated by the conflict between beneficence and autonomy, leading to a possible lawsuit. However, patients should be provided with a chance to speak up and be educated on the need for treatment procedures to overcome their health conditions.


Amer, A. B. (2019). Understanding the ethical theories in medical practice. Open Journal of Nursing, 09(02), 188-193. Web.

Norcal Group. (2017). When patients refuse treatment: Medical ethics issues for physicians. NORCAL Group – Medical Professional Liability Insurance. Web.

Rainer, J., Schneider, J. K., & Lorenz, R. A. (2018). Ethical dilemmas in nursing: An integrative review. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27(19-20), 3446-3461. Web.

Zhu, L., Zhang, S., & Lu, Z. (2020). Respect for autonomy: Seeking the roles of healthcare design from the principle of biomedical ethics. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 13(3), 230-244. Web.

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