FINE LINE BETWEEN BENEFIT and INJURY
Many situations, the line between benefit and injury is so fine that the physician may
have to seek another opinion or consult his conscience to reach a solution since no empirical methods can be used. Ordinary
medical care is a delicate balance between beneficial treatment and harmful side-effects of the methods used. The consideration
of balance includes costs, health risks, and medical benefits. No therapeutic modality is free of risk. If we were to consider
any risk as unacceptable there would be no medicine.
BENEFIT vs. INJURY
The Law gives us very clear guidelines on the balance between risks and benefits. A disease,
considered an injury, should be relieved. Before occurrence attempts must be made to prevent its injury as much as is possible.
The injury should however not be relieved by inflicting an injury of the same or higher degree. In cases of doubt about the
relative importance of the benefits of treatment and the side-effects of the treatment, we follow the principle that prevention
of injury has priority over pursuit of a benefit of equal worth. If the benefit has far more importance and worth than the
injury, then the pursuit of the benefit has priority.
LESSER EVIL vs GREATER EVIL
If we cannot empirically compare the harm of continuing untreated disease and the possible
harm from medical care, we follow the principle of selecting the lesser of two evils. If confronted with 2 actions both of
which are harmful and there is no way but to choose one of them, the one with lesser harm is committed in order to block the
way for the bigger harm. A lesser harm is committed in order to prevent a bigger harm.
PUBLIC INTEREST vs INDIVIDUAL INTEREST
This also implies that an individual could suffer in the interest of preventing a public
harm since public interest has priority over individual interest. The individual may have to sustain an injury in order to
protect public interest. This could occur in a situation of a contagious disease treated with potentially toxic medication
in order to prevent its spread in the community.
THE PROHIBITED vs THE PERMITTED
Physicians sometimes are confronted with medical interventions that are double edged; they
have both prohibited and permitted effects. The guidance of the Law is that the prohibited has priority of recognition over
the permitted if the two occur together and a choice has to be made
- Give 3 illustrations of a choice between benefit and injury in a medical intervention
- Give 2 illustrations of a choice between public and individual interest in a medical intervention
Give 2 illustrations of a choice between the prohibited and the permitted
in a double-edged / effect situation
- Give 3 illustrations of a choice between a lesser and greater evil in a medical intervention