The Geriatric Patient: Ethical Issues in Care and Treatment

Ruth Macklin


In any discussion about medical ethics, it is always fair to ask whether the ethical issues that arise in a particular setting, or regarding a particular patient population, are unique to that setting or population or whether the same ethical concerns mark the care of patients in other facilities or from other special groups. It would be an easy, if not rather boring exercise if we could simply transfer the moral problems and any proposed solutions to them from one setting, or one patient population, to another. Yet it would be surprising if no common ethical problems
existed from one area of medical practice to another. After all, medical treatment and research, nursing services, administration of health care facilities. and other activities in the sphere of medical and health care all focus on those occupying the role of patient: ill, ailing, or injured people.
With regard to geriatric patients, these questions need reply: Are there special ethical problems that arise in caring for elderly patients, problems that never or rarely occur in general medicine or with other special populations? Are there special ethical problems that arise in caring for such patients in an extended care facility, problems that never
or rarely exist in the context of ambulatory care or shortterm
medical facilities?


geriatrics; ethics



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