Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


Patient-Professional Relationship News Article

There have been comments and questions about whether children should be afforded a certain amount of autonomy and decision making. There seems to be a general agreement that parents and physicians should make decisions for children, but what happens when the parents and doctors are making the wrong decisions? Does the relationship between the doctor and child matter at all or only the relationship between the doctor and parents because the parents are supposed to make decisions for the child? Is this third-person medicine approach in the best interest of the child?

Not long ago, and still in some circles, homosexuality was thought of as a disease or disorder. Doctors and researchers like to cure or resolve diseases and disorders and in the case of children, refer to parents for consent and sometimes assistance in this goal. For the child this is a paternalistic model in which their perceived needs are considered over what they want, or their autonomy. In this article a clear abuse of this role was done by both Dr. Rekers and the parents of Kirk Murphy. Kirk liked to play with doll and wear his hair long, expressing his autonomy; his parents and Dr. Rekers neglected the welfare of this boy by severely punishing him for these actions that came natural to him. Eventually he was so well trained in denying his homosexuality he ended up having a long successful military career. The physical and psychological harm was evident, following him his whole life until he made his last act of autonomy by taking his life.

If you consider the relationship between Kirk’s parents and Dr. Rekers the parents, after realizing the harm they did, may say it was also paternalistic, however it could easily be said it was a partnership because the parents didn’t have to beat their son, they chose to. As a child did Kirk deserve autonomy to act how he wanted? What kind of relationship did Kirk’s parents have with Dr. Rekers? What ethical implications does their relationship have in term of how Kirk was treated? These are only a few of the many ethics questions that could be asked in regards to this article. This is obviously an extreme case of endangering the welfare of the patient an complete ignorance of his individual autonomy, what other examples could you think in which the child’s autonomy should be considered over what the doctors and parent want?

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