Ian Kennedy's Doctor's Moral Dilemma
A man visits his doctor complaining of
discharge in embarrassing place.
Doctor: Have you anything else to tell me?
Man: Well, er, yes, as a matter of fact. You know what a witch
the wife is. Anyway, I went out for a
couple of drinks with
the boys, and one thing led to another.
There were a couple
of girls there and, er......
Doctor decides to do a test for V.D.,
and it turns out
positive. So he tells the man that he'll need such and such
treatment, and moreover that he (the man) will have to tell his
wife about the V.D.
Man: No way. If I tell the wife, she'll scoop up the two
children, catch the next plane back home
to her mother's in
Dublin, and I'll never see the children
Doctor: You place me in a dilemma. Your wife is my patient too.
have a duty to warn my patients of any
serious health risk I
believe them to face.
Man: But you have a duty arising out of the confidential nature
of what takes place with a patient in
your office, not to
reveal things about him to others.
Doctor: That's the dilemma.
The doctor fails to get the man to tell
his wife, and fails
to get the man's consent to the doctor's telling the wife. So
what ought the doctor to do??
What actually happened was that the doctor
called the wife
and told her that at her age she really ought to come in for a
Pap Smear. The wife came in. The doctor in fact gave her a test
for V.D., which came out positive. He then told the wife that the
Pap Smear test was negative, but that he had found a little bit
of an insignificant infection, and that he would prescribe such
and such a drug to clear it up. The wife believed not a word of
this, and went straight to another doctor requesting a V.D. test,
which of course came out positive. She scooped up her two
children, caught the next plane to Dublin, and was never seen by
the husband again.