Critical Thinking, Ethical Decision Making, and the Nursing Process

1. Mrs. Elle, 80 years of age, is a female patient who is diagnosed with end-stage cancer of the small intestine. She is currently receiving comfort measures only in hospice. She has gangrene of her right foot and has a history of diabetes controlled with oral agents. She is confused and the physician has determined that she is unable to make her own informed decisions. The hospice nurse, not realizing that the weekly order for CBC and renal profile had been discontinued, obtained the labs and sent them to the nearby laboratory for processing. The abnormal lab results obtained later that day revealed that the patient needed a blood transfusion. The hospice nurse updated the patient’s medical power of attorney who was distressed at the report. The patient’s wishes were to die peacefully and to not have to undergo an amputation of her right foot. But if the patient receives the blood transfusion, she may live long enough to need the amputation. The patient’s physician had previously informed the medical power of attorney that the patient would most likely not be able to survive the amputation. The patient’s medical power of attorney had made the request to cease all labs so that the patient would receive comfort measures until she died. The patient has no complaint of shortness of breath or discomfort. (Learning Objective 4)

What ethical dilemma exists?

Who are the stakeholders and what gains or losses do each have?

What strategies should the hospice nurse take to resolve the ethical dilemma?


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