MEDA205 Medical Law And Ethics

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The Case of Jeanette & The Phone Call

Jeanette, a widow aged 80, called her doctor early one morning complaining that she was having difficulty breathing.

Jeanette spoke to the receptionist at the office and asked if she was experiencing any other difficulties.

Jeanette refused.

The October day that flu shots were being given by the doctor was very busy at his office.

The receptionist became very busy taking telephonic calls and admitting long lines of patients who waited for their annual flu shot.

Jeanette’s phone message, which was left unnoticed at the front office desk for many hours, was finally placed on the physician’s desk along with other messages.

Jeanette was so tired from the shortness of her breath that she fell asleep.

Jeanette couldn’t catch her breathe when she awoke in afternoon.

She called her neighbor, and she just said “Help!”

Jeanette was not responding to paramedics who arrived at Jeanette’s home shortly after her neighbor called 911.

She was then taken to the emergency department where she was diagnosed with pneumonia and congestive cardiac failure.

Jeanette was unable to provide any information or personal belongings to the emergency room staff.

She lost consciousness shortly afterward and she died that night.

Jeanette noticed the light on Jeanette’s answering machine when her neighbor came over to Jeanette’s house to take care of the cat.

Jeanette had called the doctor at 5:00 P.M. and she apologized for not calling her sooner.

Is this a case that presents a problem in law or ethics?

Do you think Jeanette was at fault for her death?

Is the physician responsible?

Is it the physician or anyone on his staff?

What could be done to avoid this problem?


Jeanette’s situation presents a legal and ethical problem.

From a legal perspective, every American has the right to get fair healthcare based on their health situation (Maruthappu Ologunde & Gunarajasingam 2013, 2013).

Jeanette was unable to get fair treatment because of her health urgency.

Jeanette’s case demonstrates that the two ethical domains have been crossed: beneficence (non-maleficence) and beneficence (beneficence).

Beneficence refers to the right to treat the patient immediately by preventing injury.

Jeanette’s condition is important to the nurse. She must attend flue patients.

Her present condition could turn into a serious condition depending on her age, and her symptoms (Aacharya Gastmans & Denier 2011).

My opinion is that the office receptionist was responsible as she did not understand the severity of the problem.

She was too focused on her day job and neglected to notify the doctor promptly, which delayed the whole process.

Jeanette’s extreme situation cannot be directly attributable to Jeanette’s physician.

Jeanette’s information was not included in the other piles of information that were placed by Jeanette’s office receptionist.

If the receptionist had presented Jeanette’s case promptly upon doctor’s arrival, the doctor may have been able react accordingly since he was most likely to understand the urgency.

Receptionists would have to ask Jeanette about her symptoms and take her 80-year-old age into account.

The receptionist should then inform Jeanette immediately by phone, so that Jeanette may be seen (Aacharya Gastmans & Denier 2011).


Triage in an emergency department: An ethical analysis.

American health reforms and their impact on the concept of care.

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

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