MEDA205 Medical Law And Ethics


The Case of Jeanette and The Phone Call

Jeanette, an 80 year-old widow, called her doctor one morning complaining about shortness of breath.

Jeanette called her doctor complaining of shortness of breath. The receptionist asked if there were any other problems.

Jeanette said no. The receptionist assured her that she would forward the message to the doctor.

On October 10, the doctor’s office was very busy giving flu shots.

The receptionist was immediately busy answering telephone calls and admitting patients who were waiting to get their flu shots.

Jeanette’s telephone message was not received by the front desk. It was then left there for several hours.

Jeanette fell asleep because of her shortness-of-breath.

She couldn’t catch her breath when she awoke in afternoon.

She simply called her neighbor to ask for help.

Jeanette was unresponsive when paramedics arrived at Jeanette’s house shortly after her neighbor called 911.

Jeanette was transported to the emergency room, where she was treated for congestive heart disease and pneumonia.

Jeanette did not have any medical information or personal items with her, so the emergency room staff attempted to identify her personal physician.

She died the next evening, having never regained consciousness.

Jeanette noticed that Jeanette was not answering the phone when Jeanette went to her home to get the cat.

Jeanette received a call from the doctor at 5:00 P.M. She apologised for not calling earlier.

Are you concerned that the case could be considered a legal, ethical or both?

Is Jeanette’s death attributable to anyone?

Is the physician to blame?

Is the physician at fault?

What could have been done?


Jeanette’s case presents both an ethical and legal dilemma.

Legally, it is every American’s right to fair healthcare based upon the severity of the situation and any physical complications (Maruthappu Ologunde & Gunarajasingam (2013)).

Jeanette’s case was different. Jeanette did not receive fair treatment due to her health urgency.

Jeanette has successfully merged the ethical domains of beneficence and nonmaleficence.

Beneficence is the ability to provide immediate care for the patient by preventing harm.

Jeanette’s condition must be taken into consideration by the nurse, who is responsible for attending flue patients.

Because her present complaint could become serious depending on her age and the severity of her symptoms (Aacharya Gastmans & Denier 2011, 2011).

According to me, the office receptionist is responsible for the failure to recognize the urgency of the problem.

The doctor was delayed because she became too busy with her work and neglected to notify her.

Jeanette’s extreme circumstances cannot be directly attributed to the physician.

Jeanette’s information was placed by the office receptionist along with other information.

The doctor may have been able to work accordingly if the office receptionist had presented the case right away upon his arrival.

The receptionist would have to inquire about Jeanette’s symptoms, keeping in mind her age of 80 years.

After a thorough follow-up, the receptionist would need to notify Jeanette’s doctor over the phone immediately so that Jeanette can be seen at the clinic (Aacharya Gastmans & Denier 2011, 2011).

Refer to

An ethical analysis of emergency department triage.

The impact of health reforms in the USA on the concept and definition of care.

Annals of Medicine and Surgery 2(1), 15-17.

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