Ethical Considerations in Palliative Care
Ethical Considerations in Palliative Care

Ethical Considerations in Palliative Care

by Mark Hughes, MD, MA

Ethical considerations in palliative care are of paramount importance for medical students as they navigate complex end-of-life situations. Understanding these ethical principles is not only crucial for providing compassionate patient care but also for success in medical licensing exams like the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Here's a brief overview of key ethical topics in palliative care, including futile treatment, death by neurologic criteria (DNC), and medical aid in dying (MAID), and their relevance to the USMLE.

Futile treatment refers to medical interventions that are highly unlikely to provide any meaningful benefit to a patient. In palliative care, the focus is on improving the quality of life and managing symptoms rather than pursuing aggressive and futile treatments. Medical students should understand the ethical principle of non-maleficence, which emphasizes "do no harm," and recognize when further treatment may be causing unnecessary suffering. DNC, also known as brain death, is a complex and ethically challenging concept. It involves irreversible cessation of all cerebral and brainstem activity. In some cases, patients may be candidates for organ donation after DNC. Medical students should be familiar with the clinical and ethical criteria for determining DNC, the importance of thorough testing, and the process of discussing DNC with patients' families. MAID is a contentious issue in medicine and ethics, involving a terminally ill patient's request for assistance in ending their own life. It is legal in some jurisdictions, but the ethical implications are complex. Medical students should understand the principles of autonomy, beneficence, and non-maleficence when considering MAID requests.

For the USMLE, expect questions that evaluate your understanding of the ethical principles underpinning palliative care decisions and your ability to apply these principles in clinical scenarios. Palliative care is a vital aspect of medical practice, and demonstrating ethical competence in this field is essential not only for the exam but also for providing compassionate, patient-centered care in end-of-life situations.

Course Details

  • Videos 13
  • Duration 1:14 h
  • Quiz questions 36
  • Concept Pages 4


Your Educators of course Ethical Considerations in Palliative Care

 Mark Hughes, MD, MA

Mark Hughes, MD, MA

Dr. Mark Hughes Mark, MD, MA, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a core faculty member in the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Dr. Hughes received his MD from Stony Brook University in 1992 and his MA in philosophy (bioethics) from Georgetown University in 2003. He is the co-chair of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Ethics Committee and Consultation Service. Dr. Hughes directs several courses in clinical ethics and research ethics in undergraduate and graduate medical education and continuing medical education.

Within Lecturio, Dr. Hughes teaches Medical Ethics.

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