Ethics Case Study: A newly appointed Medical Superintendent of a district Government Hospital receives complaints about the negligent attitude of the doctors in times of casualties. The patients are not properly attended. Incidentally it is the only hospital in the city and the vicinity for the poor and needy. What do you propose the Medical Superintendent should do and why? Evaluate various options and suggest suitable measures. (150 W/ 10 M)

Model Answer:

  • Health is of utmost important for human life to survive and flourish. Availability of proper facilities like hospital, medicine and other necessities increases the life span and hence productivity which is also a necessary human right.
  • The above case of negligence by doctors in times of casualties is a gross violation of human rights which questions the ethical values of doctors like wisdom, their oath towards service, importance of human life, competence and integrity.

The duty of the newly appointed Medical Superintendent is four fold such as:

  1. Administrative control of hospital.
  2. Answerable to Chief Medical Superintendent & Head of Department (Secondary Health Care Services), EHO and higher authorities.
  3. Proposal for expansion, improvement of existing facilities and implementation of the same.
  4. Co-ordination with Dy. MS, Sr. MO and other staff members.

In this regard Medical Superintendent has following options:

  1. Ignore the complaints and let the situation continue. By doing this superintendent will fail to deliver his/her duty as an administrative officer. As he is answerable to higher authorities, any casualties will question his/her ability to deal with the problems and may also cost his/her job. This will also undermine officer’s moral and ethical values as he is also involved in serving the people. This attitude will further worsen the situation as doctors will take it as official grant to be absent and run away from duties.
  2. The officer should take strict action by immediately relieving the doctors from their duties. Relieving doctors may invoke fear of harsh punishment in the light of problem. This will also make the patients more vulnerable as no doctors will be available to treat them and handle the casualties. This action also undermines officer’s ability and puts the facilities in hospital stand still.
  3. Summon an official meeting of doctors. Summoning meeting and discussing the issue in detail will work in positive context. The officer should warn the doctors for any negligent activities in future and possible consequences. The officer should also try to know the reasons for such negligence from doctors and try to fix their problems by subsequently informing the higher authorities. However, this step is a consensual one which requires doctors agreeing on the same. The possibilities are also that, the doctors will work seriously for some day and may continue their earlier attitude of negligence.
  4. If in long run, the doctors continue negligence then the officer can issue a show cause notice and ask for written explanation for the same. This will clear the cloud to a large extent and will help to address the core issue appropriately. This will also provide a premise and proof to further investigate and work out a solution.
  • The suitable measure for the problem seems to be option 3 first and then option 4 in case option 3 fails. The options 3 and 4 will make the doctors speak up on the matter and also instill fear among them for job losses. The general idea here is to bring out the truth and if the situation and problem is properly tackled the image of the hospital could be saved and the morale of the patients could be boosted.