After reading the assigned articles for this week, I would like to share my professional experience as a trauma social worker at a burn center where I had the opportunity to work with all ages. Many times I helped patients and their families know about the different treatment options available for the patient. I once had a situation of a senior patient who set himself on fire causing burns on 85 % of his body. His case brought forward the same topic as highlighted in the article, of respecting the rights of elderly patients.
This elderly patient’s trauma team meet with the patient and his family to discuss his options for treatment. The patient decided to refuse treatment using only medication to manage his pain as he passed away. The patient’s family tried to persuade him to change his mind – they doubted and did not agree with his decision. In the assigned reading the author states that “the capacity of elderly patients to participate in decision-making is frequently doubted simply because they have reached a certain age” (Perez, Lorenzo, Luna, & Osuna, 2007, p. 712). Many pre-judgement are made by family members and they forget to consider their loved one’s decision to not be treated. Either way patients have the right to be involved in the decision making process and share their wishes to the family.
According to the Social Work Code of Ethics “promote clients’ socially responsible self-determination”. Self-determination is an important concept to have in mind when dealing with patients who are aware of their health condition and capable of making their own decisions. We, as professionals, need to respect our patient’s autonomy and consider their rights as patients. Working at the burn center, all staff received training on how to address similar situations and it helped us to understand the rights of our patients. We received training regarding the code of ethics and constant reminders to consult with the code and our supervisor if similar situations occurred again. In addition to self-determination among elders all staff were given clear instructions to pay attention to signs of elder abuse among this population. In the past I have seen seniors burned because of abuse and I had to report the incident to Adult Protective Services because the patient’s safety was our first priority while working at the hospital.
Perez-Carceles, M. D., Lorenzo, M. D., Luna, A., & Osuna, E. (2007). Elderly patients also have rights. Journal of Medical Ethics, 33,712-716
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