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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vignette 2: A Suffering Caregiver



A colleague of yours, Dr. Solomon, contacts you for advice regarding a new client she has just seen. The client, Mr. Don Tellanyone, is a 47-year-old man who is seeking services for depression. During the initial phone contact, he asked repeatedly about privacy and wanted assurances that information discussed in session was confidential. The patient repeated this line of questioning during the first face-to-face session.

As the session progressed, he revealed that the source of his depression was the death of his mother one year ago. His mother had suffered from a combination of severe respiratory problems and Alzheimer’s. Mr. Tellanyone had been caring for her and his father in his home for 6 years prior to her death.  During the last two years, she required total care. He revealed that she had been suffering greatly and, out of compassion for her, he gave her an excess dose of her sleeping and pain pills. Medical personnel never questioned the death as the woman had been quite sick and “It was only a matter of time.”

Mr. Tellanyone goes on to explain that he is now caring for his father in similar circumstances, although there is no dementia. His father has declined rapidly since the death of his wife and now requires total care. Mr. Tellanyone reveals that recently he had a conversation with his father in which the father commented how peaceful his wife’s death was and how he hoped for a similar passing.

Mr. Tellanyone is feeling quite guilty about his mother.  Simultaneously, he strongly believes he made the right decision. He would like help to work through the issues. He is also very concerned about confidentiality and wants assurances from Dr. Solomon.

Dr. Solomon, feeling uncomfortable with the situation, contacts you for a consultation about the potential ethical issues for this case.

What are the potential ethical issues in this case?

What would you advise?