Case Bank


  • Family Disagreement

    Ms T was found unresponsive at home in April 2014. Paramedics were called and CPR was performed. She was intubated in the Emergency Department. Ventricular fibrillation was indicated as the cause of the cardiorespiratory collapse. CT brain scan showed a brain tumour — likely a meningioma. Ms T has been unconscious since her collapse due to hypoxic encephalopathy. She also has a complete heart block, which required the placement of a temporary pacemaker. She is not brain dead because she failed one of the criteria for brain death. However, she is ventilator dependent. Ms T’s poor prognosis was communicated to the family and an end of life discussion held. They are unable to agree on what to do next. Madam T’s husband and children think life support should be withdrawn, following the advice from the medical team that treatment will only prolong the dying process. Ms T’s siblings however wish […]

  • Risk communication of surgery

    A patient, Ms B, aged 50, saw surgeon Dr E for a 2 cm nodule in the head of the pancreas found on routine ultrasound screening. After doing blood tests and MRI scan, the nature of the pancreatic nodule remained unclear and Dr E told Ms B so. Ms B was told that the tests were inconclusive and ambiguous. She was given the alternatives of either waiting-and-watching, with repeated scans over months to see if the nodule changed, or go for surgery to remove the mass. The usual information about surgery, such as bleeding, infection, wound breakdown, deep vein thrombosis, heart attack and stroke were all disclosed to Ms B. She chose the surgery. The mass turned out to be entirely benign. However, there were complications of surgery leading to prolonged ICU stay and hospitalization and her hospital bill, which she had to pay for, was very high. Ms B […]

  • Surgery on a Relative

    Doctor Zoe is the most experienced surgeon in a surgical subspecialty. Her husband has developed an illness and is found to require a difficult surgery in Dr Zoe’s specialty. The most suitable person to perform the needed surgery is Dr Zoe herself. Dr Zoe decides that she will be the surgeon rather than risk her husband at the hands of a less experienced colleague and seeks advice from the Hospital Ethics Committee on the ethical appropriateness of the proposed plan. Questions for Discussion Is there a conflict of interest and if so what is it and how could the Ethics Committee help to resolve the dilemma? What ethical principles are at risk of being violated?