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Case Study: Two months after being
honorably discharged from his job as a military test pilot, the world of Donald
C. exploded in a flash of burning gas. He was then 26 years old, unmarried, and
a college graduate. An athlete in high school, he loved sports and the
outdoors. Rodeos were his special interest, and he performed in them with
skill. After leaving the military, Donald joined his father’s real estate
agency. The two of them had always had a close relationship, and were looking
forward to running a business together. One July afternoon, they were out
together appraising some farm land. Without realizing it, they parked their
truck near a large propane gas line, and the line was leaking. Later, when they
started the truck, the ignition set off a huge explosion. Donald, his father,
and the truck were enveloped in flames. The father died on the way to the
hospital. Donald was admitted in critical condition, and barely conscious. He
sustained mostly 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body, both eyes were blinded,
and parts of his hands, feet, arms, and legs required amputations. Heroic
actions by the medical staff kept him from dying. The therapeutic treatments
were excruciating. Within a week, Donald made it very clear that he wanted to
be left alone and allowed to die. He refused to sign any further consent forms,
and demanded to be allowed to leave the hospital and go home. “I don’t
want to go on as a blind and crippled person,” he told his doctor.
“Dying can’t be worse than this!” Donald’s mother fought zealously
against this. She had already lost her husband, and losing her son was more
than she could bear. She was also a devoutly religious person and was concerned
that Donald would die “lost,” without coming back to the Church he
had left several years before. There were others involved, too. Donald’s
doctor, Sam Macon, was the top burns surgeon in the Midwest. He wanted Donald
to keep fighting, believing that with some new surgical techniques that Dr.
Macon had devised, Donald could at least be able to return home someday to live
with his mother. Dr. Macon was also hoping that Donald’s case would bring some
attention from the media that would help to build a new burn unit at the
hospital. Donald’s fiancee, Clementine, was furious that everyone seemed to be
using Donald. His mother was using him to meet her own emotional needs, and the
doctor was using Donald to further his own medical career. Clementine thought
everyone should leave Donald alone and let him die, if that’s what he wants.
She said she just wanted what was best for Donald, and she insisted that it
didn’t have anything to do with the $100,000 she was in line to get from
Donald’s life insurance. Should Donald be allowed to go home to die? Should he
be kept in the hospital and treated against his wishes, in hopes that his
feelings might change later? In this case study the mother made the treatment
decisions as Donald was determined to not be competent. How would the theory
you chose tend to argue what would be the morally right or best thing for the
mother to do? Why? (Remember – your post should NOT reflect your personal
opinion – but the application of one of the moral theories. This is practice
for the upcoming application paper and the worksheets may help you think
through the principles and how to apply them to each option).

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