33. CASE: Ethical Advertising?

A hospital has placed billboards throughout the region with the following statement:  “Are You a Victim of Sexual or Domestic Assault?  Come to Warman Center Where We Will Treat You Immediately. Our Staff of Counsellors and Providers Have Received Special Sensitivity Training in This Area. You Are Our Main Concern.”

A twenty-five-year-old college student presents to the Warman Center’s emergency department stating, “My boyfriend assaulted and raped me and I need help.”  The registration clerk notices that there are fresh bruises and bleeding on her face, neck, and arms.  The student fills out registration information and is asked to sit in the waiting room.

Several hours pass. The young woman approaches the registration clerk and states, “I am really scared.  I have pain. I am terribly upset about what has happened to me, and I just can’t sit here any longer.”

The registration clerk responds, “Haven’t you seen all the ambulances come in?  We have patients with critical injuries like pneumothorax here.  You will have to wait your turn.”

Three and a half hours later, when a nurse calls out the student’s name to be seen, she is no longer in the waiting room.

(Case adapted from: Ann E. Mills, Edward M. Spencer, and Patricia H. Werhane (eds), Developing Organization Ethics in Healthcare: A Case-Based Approach to Policy, Practice, and Compliance, Maryland: University Publishing Group, 2001, p. 55)

  • What do you see as the organizational ethics issues?
  • How should these issues be addressed?
  • What values should be considered in this discussion?

Some Values and Ethics Issues to Consider

  • Accountability
  • Duty to provide care
  • Honesty, trust and truth-telling
  • Compliance with policy
  • Priority-setting