Welcome to Ethics Consult — an opportunity to discuss, debate (respectfully), and learn together. We select an ethical dilemma from a true patient care case. You vote on your decision in the case and, next week, we’ll reveal how you all made the call. Bioethicist Jacob M. Appel, MD, JD, will also weigh in with an ethical framework to help you learn and prepare.
The following case is adapted from Appel’s 2019 book, Who Says You’re Dead? Medical & Ethical Dilemmas for the Curious & Concerned.
Hawkeye Pierce, MD, is an oncologist with a “high-end” practice near New York’s Wall Street. One of his patients, Herman, is being treated for a terminal brain tumor. Herman is also the CEO of a major U.S. corporation. Recently, a larger U.S. company has agreed to merge with that corporation. Under the publicly announced plan, Herman, who is considered a genius in his field, will run the combined company.
Health rumors swirl around Herman, who appears sickly and emaciated, but he publicly attributes his appearance to long-standing anemia. “Otherwise, I’m fit as an ox,” Herman tells the media. “There is absolutely nothing else wrong with me. My doctors tell me I could live another 50 years.” Herman’s remarks drive both companies’ stock prices up more than 20%. Pierce is aware that Herman’s remarks constitute fraudulent stock manipulation and might be illegal.
Jacob M. Appel, MD, JD, is director of ethics education in psychiatry and a member of the institutional review board at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. He holds an MD from Columbia University, a JD from Harvard Law School, and a bioethics MA from Albany Medical College.
And check out some of our past Ethics Consult cases: