The Villain Inside a Superhero

Doctors are said to do the works of a miracle by treating an ill patient back to health. They fight with death every day to not let any patients slip away. A doctor generally decides what treatment should be given to a patient. The article, “The Deadly Choices at Memorial” describes the time during hurricane Katrina when Memorial doctors had to euthanize the sickest patients while the ‘not so ill’ patients were being evacuated. It raises many questions in this complex situation- how much control should a doctor hold over his or her patients? Should they command the death of a patient or let them die over time? Acknowledging that the hospital resources were getting limited due to hurricane Katrina, it is not easy to pick an extreme side.

The doctors who “…had hastened the deaths of some patients…”(Fink, 1) argued that they had no choice but to calculate which patients in the unit valued the most. The situation gets more controversial when the article states, “Several[of the patients] were almost certainly not near death when they were injected…” (Fink, 2). This tells me that the doctors and nurses simply tried to get rid of patients to make their work easier to handle. In this case, I feel like the doctors should have prioritized the most vulnerable patients so that they could receive resources faster. Evacuating those patients who are able to walk delayed the time for others who were surviving on limited resources. I acknowledge that the doctors and the nurses had the intention to ease their pain but it does not seem ethical to their service, especially when they had the choice to evacuate them first. It makes me disagree with the doctors’ actions when they addressed the terminally ill patients as ‘hopeless cases’ and ‘turkeys’ (Fink, 3). Their views degrade their beings and contradict their careers as doctors.

I think terminally ill patients should not receive lethal injections unless it is the very last hope. In the article, it states, “… The Coast Guard offered to evacuate more patients, but those in charge at Memorial declined” (6). This tells me that help was there to relocate patients in huge medical needs but their lives were considered the least valuable in society. While hurricane Katrina may contribute to natural selection, doctors should not have the power to contribute to artificial selection in terms of which patient should be evacuated.

4 thoughts on “The Villain Inside a Superhero

  1. Although you propose a very interesting counterargument in your last paragraph, I disagree with your argument about the proper way to act in this situation. I feel that the doctors prioritizing the patients without a DNE was responsible because people with DNEs had doubts about living before Hurricane Katrina struck. However, I do think there is something to be said about the condition of the patients with the DNE. I believe the patient’s age, role to his family, and health condition play into which patients to prioritize. For example, I might be more apt to saving a child with a DNE as opposed to a senior citizen without a DNE and has terminal cancer.

    As I’m sure you would agree, a decision of this magnitude would be difficult for anyone. I think this could be a useful piece to add to your argument because you and me make different arguments but, should a doctor even be penalized for any action they make during a circumstance like this? Pou states, “No, I did not murder those patients. Mr. Safer, I’ve spent my entire life taking care of patients” (60 Minutes). Personally, theis quote stimulated feelings of sympathy towards Pou, making it more difficult to criticize her fort such a crucial and spontaneous decision. This would be another counter-argument you could address which would only make your argument stronger. Overall, your post helped me view this topic from a different perspective, helping me to better understand the counter-argument to my argument.

  2. Adding to your initial paragraph, I believe it is worth stating that the majority of doctors, physicians, and other medical professionals go into the field of medicine because they enjoy, or at the very least, intend to help people. It for the same reason someone becomes a police officer, firefighter, or teacher. With that said it is fair to say that these employees in New Orleans had the best interest of helping people in times of great disaster.
    I understand your perspective, but I respectfully disagree when you said, “the doctors and nurses simply tried to get rid of patients to make their work easier to handle.” The controversy around the unnecessary lethal injections given to vulnerable patients is subjective. Although some people may have been killed, it was both for the interest of helping others and to put a patient out of his or her misery at the discretion of the doctor. To assume the doctors violated a humans right to life and kill with intent is to also say these doctors sacrificed their vow to protect human life and therefore they are unethical murderers. Personally, I do not believe people who dedicate their whole lives to helping human health, are willing to abandon these virtues.

  3. Wu, this is a well thought out claim. Your reasons for why these doctors made the wrong choices are very strong and compelling. I agree with you that these doctors decisions were controversial and on edge.

    First, how could a doctor speed up the death of an individual? It contradicts the duty of a doctor and is unethical. The duty of a doctor is to heal their patients. They are supposed to treat the ill for as long as possible, with the ultimate goal of bringing them back to a healthy estate. However, the doctors at Memorial did the complete opposite by injecting their patients. Hastening their patients lives goes against their obligation as a doctor. Just because they are a burden to handle in this tough situation, doesn’t mean the doctors have the right to give up on them. As you mentioned through quote, some of the patients they injected were not near death. They were put in hospitals for a reason. What if your mom was one of the patients injected? How would feel? You put your parent in the hospital to be healed in the hands of people you are supposedly supposed to trust, only to hear they ended her life? It’s unethical. Why do the doctors have the right to end the patients lives? It’s basically murder. They are first handedly injecting a deadly toxin to kill someone. In my opinion, God decides when it’s time for a person to go, it shouldn’t be others who just think a person’s time has come. I like when you said, “doctors should not have the power to contribute to artificial selection in terms of which patient should be evacuated”. I also agree with you that they should’ve evacuated the ill patients first rather than the healthy ones. Like you said, evacuating the healthy ones increased the time of the unhealthy ones to be with limited resources.

    Although I agree with all your claims, I strongly believe the doctor’s decisions were correct. Firstly, their actions of injecting the patients are justified. They didn’t do it just to get rid of the patients, but rather for the betterment of the patients. According to Dr. Cook, too many people needed help and that weren’t going to make it, so the humane thing to him was to put them out of their misery as he says, “It was actually to the point where you were considering that you couldn’t just leave them; the humane thing would be to put ’em out”. The hospital’s conditions were awful, so putting those out, who had a less likely chance of living, to me, betters both parties. Dr.Pou stated, “help the patients that were having pain and sedate the patients who were anxious” because “we knew they were going to be there another day, that they would go through at least another day of hell.” As we see here, her actions were justifiable because she metaphorically says that the hospital is like hell, which implies horrendous conditions. Secondly, their actions of evacuating the healthy patients first are justifiable. By doing so, they are evacuating the greater number of people. By evacuating healthy people first, they are able to save more people, rather than if they were to save the unhealthy. It is a controversial triage but my idea is to do the action that serves better to the greatest amount of people.

    Wu, this is a great post. However, you do jump around with many main claims. I did find it hard to focus sometimes when you made your arguments because you tended to “jump around”. For example, you talk about how doctors should not hasten the deaths of patients, then jump to how ill patients should be evacuated first and all of a sudden talk about what the doctor’s thoughts were toward the patients. Then your conclusion states, “I think terminally ill patients should not receive lethal injections unless it is the very last hope” make it seems like that was your main topic, even though I believe your claim was how the doctor’s decisions were unright. I suggest focusing on one main claim next time.

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