AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. June 2010, Volume 12, Number 6.

Ethics Poll

The Real ER

The Ethics Poll is a snapshot of the opinions of interested readers.

Without exception, practicing physicians who are in good health have a professional obligation to serve in cases of local disaster or epidemic if they are needed.
Many people complain that hospital emergency departments (EDs) are overcrowded, that it takes hours to be seen for treatment, and that the quality of care suffers as a consequence. It is often alleged that use of EDs for nonemergency and nonurgent care is the reason for the overcrowding. Which of the following best describes how you think the problem of emergency room crowding should be handled?
When an otherwise healthy person comes to the ED with life-threatening injuries (e.g., from an injury, accident, or fire) and refuses life-sustaining treatment, his or her decision-making capacity (DMC) is evaluated. Had the same person consented to the treatment, chances are good that he or she would not be evaluated for DMC. Is the special evaluation of DMC for those who refuse treatment fair?

Poll results reflect the opinions of visitors to the site who voluntarily answer the poll questions. Those visitors do not represent a random sample of our readers. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.