oa Current Allergy & Clinical Immunology - Consent, confidentiality and allergy in the emergency department : ethics

Volume 29 Number 4
  • ISSN : 1609-3607



'There's a good reason - many, in fact - that the television drama "ER" has been a runaway hit for 8 years. The emergency room is a crucible for the medical encounter. Life-threatening illness and trauma are more likely to appear here than in the office or clinic, hence, decisions often must be made quickly. Patients' physical distress and fear push them to extremes of behaviour. Crisis, fear, strange behaviour, and the opportunity for heroic success or failure - the elements on which drama and melodrama thrive - are commonplace in the emergency room or emergency "department", as the expanded service in most hospitals is now more properly known.

It makes sense that these high-pressure conditions turn up the heat on the patient-physician interaction also. The personalities of individual patient and physician and the range of personal, social, and professional expectations that each brings to the interaction always have the potential to turn the medical encounter into a difficult one; they are almost certain to do so in the emergency department where patients are frequently hostile, angry, combative, or abusive if special care is not taken to avoid potential problems.'

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