To Help or Not to Help

Throughout the course, one of the most important topics we have discussed is consent. Recently, Dr. McCoy sent us an article about consent regarding a very uncomfortable topic: death. The article is about a man who had a “do not resuscitate” tattoo on his chest that was bought to the hospital due to several medical complications. The doctors were unsure if they should treat him because they did not have a more traditional written DNR order. I understand the difficultly the doctors had in honoring the man’s wishes. After all, a doctor’s main responsibility is to save the lives of their patients. It must be difficult for them to accept that some people do not want to receive medical help even when it could save their lives. Does anyone remember that scene in the Incredibles movie where Mr. Incredible saves the man who jumps off the building to kill himself? The man winds up with severe injuries and suffers from a great deal of pain. Although Mr. Incredible thought he was doing a noble thing, he made a decision without the man’s permission. Sometimes it is not our place to decide the fate of someone else’s life.

On the other hand, sometimes based on our position we are obligated to help someone, especially if they do not have a “DNR” order. Like Taha mentioned in his post about this issue, I too have faced a similar issue with consent in my own life. I have encountered it as my role as a Resident Assistant on campus. Naturally, my most important job as an RA is to look out for the safety and well-being of my residents. This can be as simple as making sure I know all of my residents’ names to having to take action to save their lives if they are in danger. The latter is unfortunately not terribly uncommon for an RA to deal with. College students enjoy drinking alcohol, and sometimes they drink too much and endanger their lives. As an RA, I am contractually obligated to call University Police when we think that someone’s life is endangered. However, this is where I have ran into issues of consent. I encountered a situation last year where a resident who was violently ill did not want me and another RA on my staff to call UPD because they were desperately afraid that they would be transported. Being transported to the hospital can be extremely expensive if you do not have good health insurance. They could not afford it and did not want to put that burden on their parents. Obviously, this put me and my fellow RA in an incredibly difficult position. We have an obligation to protect our residents, but at the same time they did not consent to having us call UPD.

Overall, I think that we need to be respectful and think through the decisions we make. Obviously, this is extremely difficult in certain situations. Mr. Incredible had no time to think; he acted on his superhero impulse. In the same way, when presented with a dying patient, doctors know they have to act fast if they want to save the patient’s life. As an RA, we too are looking out for the well-being of those we have been hired to work for. Although it was hard for me and my co-RA, we knew that we had to honor the position we were in and act in the best interest of our resident. I truly hope that one day we live in a world where students (and anyone else) do not feel like they need to risk their lives because getting help would bankrupt them. Perhaps there would be less people with DNR orders if that was the case.

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