Ethical Dimensions in the Care of Severely Handicapped Children

DENNIS DOHERTY, PhD* Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Just as precision in medical diagnosis and prognosis is absolutely essential for good patient management, so too is rigor in ethical analysis absolutely requisite for making value judgments. Ethical dilemmas exist when values come into conflict. In context, the variables to be factored in are the age (competence) of the child, the severity of the handicap, the treatment modalities that are available (and, for given families, affordable) including the actual circumstances in which a child will be cared for (at home or in an institution where care is merely custodial), parental preferences, and legal ramifications. A brief preface providing an overview on the nature and task of ethics introduced the several dimensions in an effort to specify and, to the extent possible, resolve certain dilemmas.

*Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, 9200 West Wisconsin Avenue, Box 26099, Milwaukee, WI 53226