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Mr. D is a 75-year-old Chinese Canadian who has been admitted to the intensive care unit because of respiratory failure. He has a long history of respiratory problems. Mechanical ventilation is started. Mr. D is oriented to time, person, and place. He spends much of his time reading and enjoys his family's visits. Attempts to wean him from the ventilator have failed; consequently, he is facing a situation of permanent dependence on the breathing machine. It is unclear as to what Mr. D's wishes related to this would be. The physician in charge wishes to inform Mr. D that he is unable to get him to a point where he can be taken off the ventilator and wants to introduce the option of gradually weaning him off the ventilator and keeping him comfortable so that nature may take its course and he may die in peace. The patient's eldest son is described to the healthcare team as “the decision maker.” He approaches the physician and asks emphatically that his father not be told that he is permanently dependent on the ventilator as it would take away his hope, terrify him and, in turn, make him sicker. The son feels that telling his father would be cruel and is, therefore, unjustifiable.
What is Chinese bioethics?
Bioethics as a discipline does not formally exist within traditional Chinese culture. For many Chinese who have grown up or spent much of their lives in a culture characterized by strong communal values and an emphasis on social harmony, the process of explicit bioethical deliberation will be unfamiliar.
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