Ethical Dilemma – Term Paper

Ethical dilemmas examples

One of the dilemmas that is presented in the book is the issue of consenting to the medical services during the different visits. Lia, who was the daughter of Lee, was diagnosed with epilepsy and described at a tender age and the diagnosing physician mentioned that she was the youngest patient that he had diagnosed with the condition (Fadiman, 1997). As a result, Lia required lots of medical care due to her condition. During each visit, the client was required to sign multiple consent forms which are fundamental in preventing ethical dilemmas during medical care. Lia’s parents were among the refugees, who had traveled from Laos, and as a result, they did not understand the different consent forms, but they continued to sign since they were just accustomed to sign documents whenever they visited the hospital (Fadiman, 1997). The parents did not know how to read and write which further compromised their ability to comprehend the writing on the consent forms. 

The parties involved in the ethical dilemma brought different perspectives. For example, according to the Lee’s, they were required to sign different forms whenever they visited the hospital, and as a result, they got accustomed to just putting signatures. Fadiman (1997) also reveals that Foua had been asked to sign many documents since arriving in the United States and she had mastered the first initials of her name in different languages and hence did not need to follow instructions. According to the patient’s parents, they were happy to have complied with the requirements of the signing rather than ensuring that they did understand the risks that were involved when their daughter received medication. 

From the perspective of the hospital employees, they were just happy that the consent forms were signed. Thus the attitude demonstrated by the hospital employees was that of as long as the forms are signed then it did not matter if the patient understood the issues involved in the treatment. The employees had the ability to interpret the dates that Fou wrote such as describing her birth date as being October 6, 1942, which essentially meant that she had given birth to Lia at the age of fifty-five, but they did not use these skills to questions the information provided (Fadiman, 1997). 

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Examples of ethical dilemmas in healthcare

Application of Culturally Competent Practice

The ethical dilemma was not handled well, and there are some dispositions, attitude, and skills that the professionals could have demonstrated to facilitate the achievement of the best outcome. It was necessary for the employees to demonstrate respect for the patient and the guardians when taking care of Lia. Respect in the context of culturally competent practice is simply positioned as the acknowledgment of the existence of boundaries between the parties that are involved (Barrera, Kramer & Macpherson, 2012). For example, in the case of ethical dilemma presented in the case of Lee, there were fundamental boundaries that were overlooked resulting in the major ethical dilemmas that were observed. The religious positions held by the Lee family were one of the barriers that could have affected their perception of the care provided at the hospitals. The knowledge that the Hmong and the American cultures differed on the understanding of what constitutes epilepsy could have allowed the health care staff to handle the Lee’s in a better manner. According to the Hmong diseases were caused by multiple factors including superstitious elements and hence the Lee’s did not share the same view on epilepsy as the healthcare professionals (Fadiman, 1997). As a result, they did not imagine that the treatment given to Lia could have had any form of consequences which led them to overlook most of the processes involved including how the consented to the treatment. 

The knowledge of the family’s positioning and power within the social context would have enabled the ethical dilemma to be handled in a better manner. For example, the knowledge as to whether the family belongs to minority groups enables the healthcare providers to understand that the status is associated with various disadvantages in life (Barrera et al., 2012). In the case Lee, the family belonged to a group of refugees that had migrated to the United States which put them to the disadvantage regarding social power (Fadiman, 1997). The family did not understand English well, and they also lacked the ability to read and write. In the ethical case related to the signing of consent forms, Fou is shown as failing to read the instructions before appending a signature for consenting (Fadiman, 1997). The knowledge of the social status of the family would have enabled the healthcare providers to prepare adequately for each visit by arranging for an interpreter to be available so as to explain the issues involved in the different procedures that Lia would undergo as part of her treatment. The knowledge that the Hmong did not understand the process through which epilepsy is caused based on their perception of illnesses as being associated with superstition could have enabled the family to understand the disease process better. 

Developing a responsive attitude would have enabled the ethical issue to be handled in a better manner. In respect to culturally competent practice, comprises of a process where one allows themselves to have their conceptualization of an individual challenged. Rather than just being rigid with the preconceived idea, the responsive person tends to recognize their other person in their very diversity (Barrera et al., 2012). For example, when caring for a child, it is easy to rush quickly towards what needs to be done during the process of care. In the case of Lia, there was disregard as to what explanation was offered for her illness. With the skill of responsiveness, the healthcare staff would have been able to perceive the patient in wholesome manner hence making arrangements such as offering more education on the condition to the parents and even offering return visits to Lia to educate her on illnesses when she did not have seizures. 


The case was instrumental in enabling me to learn some fundamental lessons and changed my thinking on how to best work with families during early childhood practice. First, it is important to gather all the required information regarding the child’s family such as the language that they use in the home environment as this is critical to their understanding of the procedures that their child will undergo and hence eliminates the dilemma of signing consent forms without knowledge of the contents. It is also necessary to understand the cultural and social disposition of the child and their family as this determines the other factors such as knowledge and power which could also determine their ability to comprehend the procedures involved. The case has also enabled me to learn that it is important to learn how the parents explain the events associated with the children as this is critical in determining whether they comply to the professional services provided.