AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. January 2005, Volume 7, Number 1.

Module 4

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Case 4.2: Practicing a Procedure on the Newly Deceased—Mrs. Milos's Pericardiocentesis

Option Assessment

A.  

Telling Lydia or Carl to attempt pericardiocentesis should be avoided. It violates Code Opinion 8.181, "Performing Procedures on the Newly Deceased for Training Purposes": "physicians should obtain permission from the family before performing such procedures."

B.  

Informing Mrs. Milos's son of her death and asking for consent to have a medical student attempt a pericardiocentesis is preferable. By obtaining permission from Mrs. Milos's son, Dr. Desai would satisfy the requirements expressed by the Code in Opinion 8.181, "Performing Procedures on the Newly Deceased for Training Purposes": "physicians should obtain permission from the family before performing such procedures."

C.  

Simply informing Mrs. Milos's son of her death is acceptable in that it does not violate the Code, but it is not the best alternative because it does not help the students progress in their professional training. Because this situation provides an opportunity for a medical student to practice a valuable procedure, it should be pursued, so long as the teaching of this skill is, as Opinion 8.181, "Performing Procedures on the Newly Deceased for Training Purposes" stipulates: "the culmination of a structured training sequence" and not a random opportunity for which the trainees are unprepared.

D.  

Telling Lydia or Carl to inform Mrs. Milos's son about her death and ask for consent to attempt a pericardiocentesis should be avoided because it violates the Code in Opinion 8.18, "Informing Families of a Patient's Death": "It would not be appropriate for the attending physician or resident to request that a medical student notify family members of a patient's death."

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