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 Comparison

The difficulty of performing pericardiocentesis suggests that the opportunity for Lydia or Carl to learn by attempting the procedure on the recently deceased should be pursued. Accordingly, option B (in which the resident seeks Mrs. Milos's son's permission for the procedure) is the preferable option. Nonetheless, it is not a mandate of the Code for students to practice procedures on the recently deceased, so option C is an acceptable alternative.

Option A—performing pericardiocentesis without permission—should be avoided because it may violate the wishes of both Mrs. Milos and her son regarding the treatment of her body after death. Respect for patient and family preferences, even for procedures on the newly deceased, requires that permission be obtained. Option D should also be avoided because medical students should not be assigned the task of informing a patient's family members of his or her death.

Preferable: Option B

Acceptable: Option C

Avoid: Options A and D

Additional Discussion and Information

The people and events in this case are fictional. Resemblance to real events or to names of people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.