Date Presented

Spring 3-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Tom Brickhouse

Second Advisor

Dr. Laura Kicklighter

Third Advisor

Dr. Nicholas Frank


In 1978, Mary C. Northern was admitted to Tennessee Nashville General Hospital for an infection in both of her feet. It was discovered that Ms. Northern was suffering from untreated and severely gangrenous frostbite, which is deemed fatal if left untreated. The healthcare professionals agreed that in order to prevent the gangrene from spreading, both of her feet would need to be amputated. However, Ms. Northern strongly refused the life-saving operation. Ms. Northern posed no threat to anyone; however, it is questionable what the most ethical course of action is when a patient refuses treatment. This raises the question, should a patient be able to refuse a life-saving treatment, or should a healthcare professional force treatment upon the patient? A philosophical dilemma arises between the healthcare professionals’ interest to benefit the patient’s well-being and the interest of the patient to receive preferred treatment and express self-determination. The traditional bioethical principles are inefficient to allow the most ethical decision. The most ethical decision is one which modernizes the dated principle-based philosophy and highlights the need for an enhanced approach to patient autonomy.