By Donna Westfall – September 5, 2016 –
What’s a dilemma? Well the common definition is a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially equally undesirable ones. Here is an example of a dilemma;
Ken is a doctor. One of his patients, whom he has diagnosed as HIV positive, is about to receive a blood transfusion prior to being released from the hospital. He has told Ken, in the confidence of their doctor-patient relationship, that after he gets his transfusion, and his medicine from Ken, he intends to infect as many people as possible with HIV starting that evening.
Because Dr. Ken is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, there is no legal way to stop this man from carrying out his plan. Even if Dr. Ken warned the police, they would not be able to arrest him, since his medical information is protected.
It occurs to Dr. Ken that he could contaminate his medication by putting an untraceable poison in it that will kill him before he gets a chance to infect others.
What should Dr. Ken do? Should Dr. Ken poison this man in order to prevent him from spreading HIV? Now that’s an example of a person who has to make some tough choices.
Here is another example of a fictional dilemma; In a small city there is a person who gets so drunk that she leaves her house and stands on a busy street, takes off her bra so that she is naked from the waste up and starts screaming. Eventually she calls 911 on herself. The police arrive within minutes. It would seem that there is no dilemma here. She should be arrested for disturbing the peace.
Open and shut case. Well not so open and shut. The person just happens to be a member of the city council and considering that the police department depends partly on her vote for their budget, they may have a dilemma. If they arrest her they may not get her vote when the budget comes up for review. If they don’t arrest her, they may get accused of favoritism by treating a councilperson differently than an ordinary citizen?
Well there may be a third way. They could decide to treat the event as a medical emergency. By taking this course of action, the event would not make it into the police report because it would not be reported as a crime and the ambulance staff could not report it because it would violate HIPAA laws. By taking this route, the police department could be reasonably assured that their budget would not be affected by this person.
The moral of the story is that even though a dilemma consists of making tough choices, there may be another alternative, but in some circles the alternative that may be a good choice in the short run, may end up being the wrong choice if the cover-up is ever discovered.