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Preserving fertility in an unconscious patient with Goodpasture syndrome-medicolegal and ethical aspects


Stark, Doreen; Stiller, Ruth; Xie, Min; Weber, Damian; Maggiorini, Marco; Hilty, Matthias Peter (2018). Preserving fertility in an unconscious patient with Goodpasture syndrome-medicolegal and ethical aspects. Journal of Intensive Care, 6:40.

Abstract

Background
Every day in the ICU, legal issues arise while treating sedated, unconscious, and legally incapacitated patients. Whenever a life-saving treatment cannot be discussed in a timely manner with an unconscious patient, doctors are required by law to act according to the substituted judgment standard. However, if it is not survival that is at stake, but conservation of reproduction and the potential side effects are significant, the decision-making process becomes much more difficult. Legal issues associated with possible harm to the patient on the one hand and ethical issues with presumable benefit of the intervention on the other hand give rise to difficult decisions.
Case presentation
We present the case of a 24-year-old patient with Goodpasture syndrome. Because of rapid aggravation of kidney function and alveolar hemorrhage-the latter requiring an urgent initiation of mechanical ventilation-therapy with steroids, plasmapheresis, and cyclophosphamide was immediately required. Knowledge of the negative impact on fertility brought up the question about sperm cryopreservation. According to the substituted judgment standard, together with the mother of the patient and based on interdisciplinary evaluation of the situation with specialists from the reproductive endocrinology and urology department, the decision for a testicular sperm extraction in the absence of the possibility to obtain the patient's informed consent was made. Immediate chemotherapy was initiated and continued after the procedure. The patient recovered from the acute illness and was informed retrospectively about the testicular sperm extraction, which he received extremely positively.
Conclusion
Our aim is to highlight the legal objectives and ethical aspects of a non-lifesaving but fertility-preserving intervention in an unconscious patient. The need for decision-making in this kind of situation is rare and therefore challenging. The present case may serve to encourage and guide other doctors in similar situations.

Abstract

Background
Every day in the ICU, legal issues arise while treating sedated, unconscious, and legally incapacitated patients. Whenever a life-saving treatment cannot be discussed in a timely manner with an unconscious patient, doctors are required by law to act according to the substituted judgment standard. However, if it is not survival that is at stake, but conservation of reproduction and the potential side effects are significant, the decision-making process becomes much more difficult. Legal issues associated with possible harm to the patient on the one hand and ethical issues with presumable benefit of the intervention on the other hand give rise to difficult decisions.
Case presentation
We present the case of a 24-year-old patient with Goodpasture syndrome. Because of rapid aggravation of kidney function and alveolar hemorrhage-the latter requiring an urgent initiation of mechanical ventilation-therapy with steroids, plasmapheresis, and cyclophosphamide was immediately required. Knowledge of the negative impact on fertility brought up the question about sperm cryopreservation. According to the substituted judgment standard, together with the mother of the patient and based on interdisciplinary evaluation of the situation with specialists from the reproductive endocrinology and urology department, the decision for a testicular sperm extraction in the absence of the possibility to obtain the patient's informed consent was made. Immediate chemotherapy was initiated and continued after the procedure. The patient recovered from the acute illness and was informed retrospectively about the testicular sperm extraction, which he received extremely positively.
Conclusion
Our aim is to highlight the legal objectives and ethical aspects of a non-lifesaving but fertility-preserving intervention in an unconscious patient. The need for decision-making in this kind of situation is rare and therefore challenging. The present case may serve to encourage and guide other doctors in similar situations.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Institute of Intensive Care Medicine
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Reproductive Endocrinology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:18 Jan 2019 13:27
Last Modified:29 Mar 2019 14:14
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:2052-0492
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s40560-018-0311-y
PubMed ID:30062013

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