Max, a 72-year-old patient dying of severe congestive heart failure, asks his physician to turn off his left ventricular assist device (LVAD) because his quality of life has diminished considerably since the device was implanted months earlier. The device has caused a painful infection, and he is in such a fragile state that the LVAD cannot be removed or replaced.
The attending cardiologist objects, knowing that if the request is granted it is likely to end Max’s life in a matter of minutes. The physician, citing his religious views, says turning off the device is akin to killing the patient. The issue at hand is one of professional conscience. The question: When is a health professional obliged to perform a medical task if it violates their deeply held view of right and wrong?
It is a question without an easy answer, making it perfect fodder for the “Hard Call” podcast, an example of the way the increasingly popular medium of podcasting is being used to help engage medical students, physicians and the broader public about the often trying decisions faced by patients and health professionals.