Whose Leg Is It Anyway?: Medical Decision-Making in the ER

In considering the motivations and conduct of an ER doctor, should paternalism be such a dirty word? Determining if a medical problem represents an "imminent loss of life or limb" for a patient seems as if it should constitute a straightforward, yes-or-no, situation for an ER doctor to figure out. It is at the heart of what defines a "medical emergency." But consider the following example, in which the principles of a physician's duty for beneficence and a patient's right to autonomy come into conflict. Shades of grey predominate here.