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Medical Ethics Without the Rhetoric - Case 11 Hands off, Doc!


You are on duty in an area of the hospital where there are many elderly patients. While you are caring for one patient in a shared room, you hear warning beeps from a monitoring device for the other patient in the room. While the other patient has a different attending physician, you look to see if the situation is serious and conclude that an immediate intervention is needed. When you approach the patient, the patient mutters, “I don’t want one of you touching me.” You are from the Middle East and assume that the patient is referring to this fact in saying “one of you.” In the state in which you are practicing, it is considered assault to touch a patient against the patient’s wishes. You doubt that you can get another physician to the scene in time to save the patient’s life. Should you intervene?