Moral dilemmas in pediatric orthopedics

John J. Mercuri, Jonathan M. Vigdorchik, Norman Y. Otsuka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

All orthopedic surgeons face moral dilemmas on a regular basis; however, little has been written about the moral dilemmas that are encountered when providing orthopedic care to pediatric patients and their families. This article aims to provide surgeons with a better understanding of how bioethics and professionalism apply to the care of their pediatric patients. First, several foundational concepts of both bioethics and professionalism are summarized, and definitions are offered for 16 important terms within the disciplines. Next, some of the unique aspects of pediatric orthopedics as a subspecialty are reviewed before engaging in a discussion of 5 common moral dilemmas within the field. Those dilemmas include the following: (1) obtaining informed consent and assent for either surgery or research from pediatric patients and their families; (2) performing cosmetic surgery on pediatric patients; (3) caring for pediatric patients with cognitive or physical impairments; (4) caring for injured pediatric athletes; and (5) meeting the demand for pediatric orthopedic care in the United States. Pertinent considerations are reviewed for each of these 5 moral dilemmas, thereby better preparing surgeons for principled moral decision making in their own practices. Each of these dilemmas is inherently complex with few straightforward answers; however, orthopedic surgeons have an obligation to take the lead and better define these kinds of difficult issues within their field. The lives of pediatric patients and their families will be immeasurably improved as a result.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1133-e1138
JournalOrthopedics
Volume38
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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    Mercuri, J. J., Vigdorchik, J. M., & Otsuka, N. Y. (2015). Moral dilemmas in pediatric orthopedics. Orthopedics, 38(12), e1133-e1138. https://doi.org/10.3928/01477447-20151123-04