Chicago — It’s a relatively simple case, Dr. Murphy told the ethics consultants he met with in June. A Spanish-speaking, 65-year-old woman of Mexican descent presented with a large growth in the soft tissue of her lower torso. He suspected it might be cancer and wanted to order a biopsy, but was worried the woman’s daughter — who handled interpreting duties — would try to shelter her mother from the bad news.
“It’s crazy,” Dr. Murphy said. The patient “needs to be involved in her own health care decisions at some level.”
When the daughter, Ines, stepped in to meet with the same ethics consultants, Michael Bliss and Jeffrey Loebl, tension filled the room.
“I know how she is,” Ines said of her mother. “When my dad was really ill — he had cancer — she used to say to me all the time, ‘You shouldn’t tell someone they have cancer.’ She’s right. Knowing that information doesn’t help you get better.”
The case represented a clash of cultures. On one side was Dr. Murphy’s medical culture of patient autonomy; on the other was the patient’s cultural preference to be left in the dark. Slapped on top was a healthy dose of strained relations that left the ethics consultants flummoxed on how to satisfy everyone.
Perhaps it’s a good thing the scenario was just pretend.
The whole shebang.