Ethics has a special significance among healthcare professions because of the fiduciary relationship between medical practitioners and their patients. Owing to their superior knowledge, skill, and authority in health matters, practitioners are obliged to look out for the best interests of their patients. However, patients will, in some cases, make demands that might be detrimental to their health in the pursuit of their self-interests. As such, healthcare ethics provides a useful analytic framework for committees charged with the responsibility of thinking through such ethical dilemmas in a rational and responsible manner.
In Dr. LaFavor’s case, while female genital cutting is advocated by the Somali and Sunni communities, it could have adverse negative implications on women’s health. Nonetheless, the practice is engraved in their culture and most women have no problem with it. Even though doctors might find it in the best interest of their patients to abstain from genital cutting and avoid re-infibulation, their failure to engage in the practice might result in other dire consequences such as ex-communication or divorce.
Due to the sensitivity of the matter, the hospital’s policy about the practice should be formulated by the ethics committee. The committee will be in a better position to thoroughly consider the pros and cons of the practice and come up with an amicable solution to the satisfaction of both practitioners and patients. Although it would be both unethical and illegal to ban female genital cutting or deny medical care to those who are adamant to accept change, the hospital can make deliberate attempts to sensitise the community on the dangers of the practice. Hopefully, better-informed patients will be more responsive towards accepting change.
Hester, D. M., & Schonfeld, T. (2012). Guidance for healthcare ethics committees. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
LaFavor, K. (n.d.). Female genital cutting . (A. Haddad, Interviewer)
Post, L. F., & Blustein, J. (2015). Handbook for health care ethics committees. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press.
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