My wife just completed a procedure for a blacked carotid artery, obviously a stroke risk. She had the same procedure two years ago on the other side of her neck. In the discussions with the surgeon, he emphasized that this was a serious condition and had been put off too long: the artery was 80-90% blocked.
“You have a choice,” he said. “I can take care of this side just like last time, and the problem will be gone.”
“Or you can take part in an NIH study that will use experimental drugs and treatment over the next five years. It’s your choice.”
I had to interject. “What do you recommend?” I asked. “It’s up to you,” he replied. I said, “You just said this is a serious problem that poses the risk of a debilitating stroke. You said that you could fix the problem next week, and it would be gone. Why would my wife choose to endure the condition for five years?”
“For the good of humanity,” he answered. Well, my wife said: “Operate,” and as of today, it’s over: artery unblocked. Still, I’m troubled. It’s not the doctor’s role to advocate for “humanity.” His first duty is to his patient. It is unethical to in any way encourage a patient to accept a risky and uncertain treatment course when a better one is available.
The doctor should have told my wife about the study, and he should have firmly advised against it, in her best interests.