Medical ethics case study: Speculating on Public Figure’s Mental Health

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Dr. John Henning Schumann writes on the AMA’s Virtual Mentor Journal of Ethics website, “Speculating on a Public Figure’s Mental Health.”

Schumann, who is dabbling in radio himself these days, focuses on a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine who was interviewed on the radio about her theories about what happened when a 16-year-old tenth grader went to school with a gun, killed two classmates, and injured several others before surrendering to the police. Excerpt:

“The next day at work a senior doctor in her practice… mentioned that he had heard her on the radio. (The pediatrician) smiled and asked him what he thought.

“To be honest, I was pretty shocked. How could you make such suggestions about a young man you haven’t even met? He’ll be tried in this town. Your opinion carries weight because you’re a doctor. Did you ever think you’d be influencing a jury?”

(The pediatrician) was chastened. When she went home, she read through comments on the online version of her story. Some people endorsed her opinion and others disagreed. But it was true, she realized, that none of them knew what was going on with (the young shooter). A lot of people disagreed with the policy changes she recommended. A few accused her of using the town’s tragedy to promote her own social agenda.”

Schumann goes on to analyze the ethical dilemma that the pediatrician found herself in.

I think you’ll learn from his analysis of this incident.


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