The Case of Scott Starson
February 26th, 2013
The decision to treat any patient by force poses many questions. There are very few occasions where one might imagine treating a competent person in defiance of his or her express wishes. The moral principle of respect for autonomy coupled with statutes that protect patient rights forbid forced treatment. Yet there remain medical professionals who have disagreed with a patient’s choice and take the matter to court. When considering patient rights it’s important to define the difference between refusing a blood transfusion for religious reasons and refusing medications that affect one’s mental health. A case ...view middle of the document...
Thus, capacity is not necessarily about best interests, but about the cognitive ability to process information and make an informed decision. In the Starson case, he claimed that taking medication would affect his career; something he holds in the utmost importance. Respect for autonomy and liberty demand that physicians respect a patient’s decision to refuse treatment. “One of the most fundamental principles of Canadian health care theory and law is that, all other things being equal, competent patients have the right to accept or reject any diagnosis, treatment or intervention”. This being said, he had every right to refuse treatment based on the fact that he is a competent patient and able to decide for himself. Why should a professional be able to force upon medication to a patient unwillingly? When a professional doubts a competent patients choice, he or she has a certain professional etiquette to follow. “If all else fails and the physician cannot in good conscience accept the patient’s decision, there is always the option of referring the patient to another physician and withdrawing from the case”. The situation would be radically different if Mr. Starson were an incompetent patient, for instance if he were a child or mentally disabled. In these cases he would be unable to understand what is being said to him and would need a surrogate to make that decision. However he is suffering from bipolar disorder, which is “a condition in which people go back and forth between periods of a very good or irritable mood and depression”. If Mr. Starson thinks that medication for his disorder can potentially ruin his career, than that is his prerogative, his choice to continue his life with bipolar disorder. A professional can’t give any guarantees that medication will cure his mental disorder, so why should he accept or be forced to do that? Dr. O asks some very important questions in his Lesson 8 discussion concerning patients’ rights, “To whom, if to anyone, do we belong? Are we anyone's property? To whom or what does our body belong? Whose body is it anyway? Whose life is it anyway?”Reflecting on these questions, the answer is that every individual is their own person, deemed competent or not. Furthermore, “no one can really know what it’s like to be you or me”, as stated by Dr. O., explains precisely that nobody can fully understand someone else’s decision without actually being them. This is what is happening in Mr. Starsons case, I believe that the physicians are not taking in account that he is looking out for his best interest concerning the overall picture of happiness in his life.
It is argued that competent patients should always have the right to refuse medical help, however patients don’t always appreciate the help that is given to them due to issues such as mental disease that can cloud judgment. In the case of Mr. Starson it was the physicians and professionals who claimed that he couldn’t sincerely appreciate the medical treatments....