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Ethics Reflection Paper: Miss Evers’ Boys

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Ethics is defined as a moral principle that deals with right verses wrong and ultimately governs an individual’s behavior. As members of the healthcare community, we have an obligation to protect the rights of every patient we take care of. However, there were times in the past, as seen in the movie Miss Evers’ Boys, where patient’s rights were not protected and were treated unethically. The Tuskegee trial was conducted to test the effects of syphilis on African Americans alone compared to that of Caucasian Americans. This study was seen as ethical by members of the government at the time but is now a great example of poor ethical decisions. This paper will address how dignity, respect, and beneficence was slightly protected, but mainly neglected in the Tuskegee trial.

Question 1

After viewing the movie Miss Evers’ Boys, I thought the movie was very well made overall. I thought the acting was done well and it had a great message. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is going into the medical field because it puts great emphasis on the importance of every patient’s dignity, respect, and beneficence, as well as, providing fair treatment no matter the race or ethnicity an individual is. At the completion of the film, I was deeply saddened at the results of the study. Many of the men who participated in this study either passed away or developed severe mental and physical handicaps. I also thought it was unfair how the men were not given more money for what they had to sacrifice during the trial. Similarly, I was disappointed in the fact that no member of government had been held accountable for carrying out this terrible act of human injustice.

Overall, the subjects in the movie Miss Evers’ Boys were all treated unfairly in the study. Although there were some instances where the subjects were shown some care and attention by the nurse, instances of neglect were far more prevalent in the study. Even though the nurse provided care to them and was there to provide some physical and emotional needs, they did not get the care they deserved or needed. The men in the study were repeatedly lied to and manipulated. An example of this was when the subjects were told they were getting treatment for their syphilis, when in reality, the treatments they were receiving were futile. During this time, when the study was conducted, an effective treatment for syphilis became accessible to the world. This treatment was a penicillin shot which showed to have a high incidence of cure rates. Unfortunately, the men in the study were prevented from receiving this form of treatment because the government wanted to keep going with the study. This included posting every individuals name involved in the study in every hospital, so they were not allowed to receive the medication to cure them. This is an example of the men being treated poorly and lack of confidentiality on the governments part. Additionally, the men in the study were not informed that they were subjects of a controlled study. Individuals participating in a research study should always be aware that they are subjects, and an inform consent should be provided and signed for each person (Bowrey & Thompson, 2014). This allows the participant to make their own choice of whether or not to be in the study, and it helps them know what will be happening in the study (Bowrey & Thompson, 2014).

In this movie, the nurse played a big role in keeping the men involved in the study. She did this by helping the men understand certain medical terminology that they would otherwise not understand. For example, when the doctor said that the men had a bacterial infection that was spread through sexual activity that could ultimately kill them, the nurse helped explain it in a way that was understandable by saying that the men just had “bad blood. ” Furthermore, the nurse helped convince the men to seek treatment at the hospital. At first, the men did not want to participate because they felt the government did not want anything to do with them because they were black. The nurse reassured the men that the government was finally looking out for the colored people. This reassurance caused all the men to come to treatment. The nurse also played a big role in helping with the spinal tap procedure. She comforted the patients when they were in pain by holding their hands and distracting them from the pain. When some of the patients did not want to receive “treatment” any longer, she found ways to help keep them in the study, such as giving the subjects money for burial services. The nurse also provided transportation and a hot meal for some of the men in exchange for them getting their blood tested. Overall, the nurse had a very important role in this study.

To continue, the movie Miss Evers’ Boys reinforced my responsibility as a registered professional nurse in the future. This movie reminded me about the importance of maintaining every individual’s confidentiality during care. It taught me to value every person as an individual no matter what race or ethnicity. As a nurse in the future, I should advocate for my patient’s rights and provide comforting care when my patients need it. This movie taught me that I need to be aware of unethical studies going on and what to do if I see something similar because all patients have the right to know if they are in a study or not. Miss Evers’ Boys influences my role as a future nurse because I should never lie to my patients about their diagnoses, and I should treat them to the best of my abilities to help them get better.

Question 2: Dignity

In my thoughts, dignity is defined as being worthy of respect and honor. One’s dignity should always be upheld and protected while being treated in a healthcare setting. Each individual is unique and should be valued and appreciated no matter the circumstances. The environment, government, and healthcare providers can all effect one’s dignity and make it feel compromised (Baillie, 2009). In this film, the dignity of the individuals was not upheld, and the African American men were valued less than the Caucasian men. This was shown when the government did not care if the African American died for the purpose of the study. The government was so interested in the outcome of the study that instead of helping them heal, they let the infection runs its course. Moreover, the men in the study were not valued because they were not paid a lot of money for what happened to them. However, their dignity was protected in an instance when the nurse brought up the idea that the men should get some money for participating in the trial.

Respect

Respect is the act of valuing and treating an individual justly. Individuals should always be appreciated and treated fairly when being cared for. Respect was disregarded in the movie Miss Evers’ Boys because instead of the men being respected for being in the study, they were treated poorly by not even being told they were participating in a study. The men were looked down upon because of their skin color and thus disrespected. The men were insulted when they were told they would not understand anything about the disease process. This is disrespectful because the doctors were assuming that the men were unknowledgeable. One way individuals in a study can feel respected and promote their dignity is by making the subjects feel comfortable, valued, and in control (Baillie, 2009).

Beneficence

Beneficence is taking helpful actions to assist others. Doing what is good and right is an important aspect of this word. This principle is based on the philosophy “do no harm,” and that definition shows that beneficence was disregarded in this study. An example of how beneficence was disregarded in this study was when the government, instead of giving the men the penicillin when it became available, did the complete opposite and withheld it from them, so they could not receive it. Beneficence was also neglected when instead of rubbing mercury on the men, another solution was used that had no potential in helping their infection. Some would say beneficence was upheld in this study because the men were offered some medical care which included a physical examination and basic fever reducing measures. Overall, beneficence was disregarded in the during the movie because the government and medical team were not trying to help the individuals get better in the study.

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