Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Is it Ethical to Treat a ‘Bad’ Person?


Image credit. If you are not upset by this image, you are much better at compartmentalizing than I am.

A question was posted on Facebook a while ago.

Suppose that you are dispatched for burns. Your patient is reported to have burned some children and burned herself while setting the children on fire.

Some of the children have died, but others are alive and are in severe pain.

The surviving children are already being treated appropriately. There are more than enough people and pain medicine to treat the children. There is only your patient for you to deal with.

Your patient even states, I did it.

Do you withhold treatment?

Do you provide any pain management?

Do you treat the person who admits to burning these children?



Why not?



  1. I would like to think I’d keep it under my professional clowny mantra of “I’m not here to determine if your pain is real or not” and just do my best to treat appropriately. For no other reason than less chance of legal recourse for knowingly not treating the patient as appropriately as I possibly could. That being said, I’d probably want the rest of my shift off that day for a world record breaking shower to try and get the feeling of being dirty off of me.

  2. Everyday I have to wake up and look myself in the mirror and justify to myself if I’m actually living the life of the person who I want to be.

    I treat them. Coldly. Professionally. Meticulously.

    I chastise or remove any coworkers who can’t get on board with that.

    After I vomit. Later I go home and drink my breakfast sitting at the kitchen table in the dark.

    You don’t get to choose the people in your care. This is true even for the darkest monsters from the vilest circle of hell.

    If you start deciding who deserves treatment based on morality you start down a slippery slope of exclusion.

    Next time maybe I won’t treat them because they’re black. Or Republican. Or Catholic. Or whatever.

    I won’t go down that road. Even if I have to hate myself for a while for doing it.

  3. You treat her, without any qualms, because you have no idea if she meant “I poured gas on my children” or “it’s my fault for not divorcing my husband before he did this” or some other construct. You may have to hold your bile down, but you treat. Just like TPN Taxi says.

Speak Your Mind