"I am not interested in talking with you."

Hastings Cent Rep. 2016 Jul;46(4):7-9. doi: 10.1002/hast.599.


Mr. M is an eighty-five-year-old who presented to the hospital with congestive heart failure exacerbation, pneumonia, altered mental status, and sepsis. A physician determines that he lacks capacity, and the team in the intensive care unit looks to the patient's daughter, Celia, as his surrogate decision-maker because she is named as an agent in his medical power of attorney form. While in the ICU, Mr. M suffers acute respiratory distress secondary to pneumonia and thus requires intubation. Celia accepts several life-sustaining interventions, but she sporadically refuses other medically indicated therapies. Although providers explain the importance of the ICU insulin regimen for glucose control, she either refuses the insulin or requests a lower dose. The health care team believes that it is providing substandard care and that Celia's medical decisions are not in the patient's best interests, so they request an ethics consultation. When the clinical ethicist attempts to talk with Celia, she refuses to speak with him, saying flatly, "I am not interested in talking with you." The clinical ethicist meets with Celia on a couple of occasions, but she consistently refuses to have a conversation with him. He wonders if the patient's surrogate decision-maker can refuse a clinical ethics consultation and is unsure what his next steps should be.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making / ethics*
  • Ethicists*
  • Heart Failure / complications
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / ethics*
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Pneumonia / complications
  • Proxy / psychology*
  • Trust