Case Study

A nurse has sued Memorial Hospital, charging that she was demoted after complaining about a heart surgeon tossing bloody tissue at her during an operation. The eight-page complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court by Sonja Morris alleges that Dr. Bryan Mahan tossed the 4-by-6-inch piece of tissue at her, hitting her on the leg during an open-heart surgery in August 2008. She contends Mahan made a joke about it to the other surgeons, saying, “Oh (expletive), I hit her. Can we get cultures on that?” Morris said she felt humiliated as the other surgeons chuckled. Mahan could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Morris claims that the incident was part of a pattern of harassing behavior by Mahan toward her. She also alleged that in June 2008, Mahan came up behind her and hit her in the head. She told him to stop, but two weeks later, he did it again, the suit alleged. Again she asked him to stop.

Chris Valentine, a spokesman for the hospital, declined to comment on the lawsuit. “Obviously, because it’s in legal hands, we’re not in a position to comment,” he said. Mahan is the chairman of cardiac and thoracic medicine at Memorial. He is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Morris has worked at the hospital as a nurse since June 1999. She has been a member of the heart surgery team since October 2007.

The incident with the bloody tissue occurred on Aug. 28, 2008, after normal working hours during an operation in which doctors were doing a procedure known as a pericardiectomy. The surgery involved removing a protective layer of tissue from the heart. Morris contends that was the bloody tissue that Mahan tossed at her. She said she was standing at a work station about 15 feet away from the operating table. Because the operation was still in progress, she was unable to immediately clean the part of her leg that the tissue hit. She filed a complaint about the incident but said that resulted in no disciplinary action.

On Dec. 10, she filed a notice of claim against Mahan and the hospital. Her complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment because of her gender. Seven days later, she said hospital administrators removed her from the heart surgery team, considered a prestigious position, and transferred her to the main operating room. The suit alleged that this action violated her First Amendment rights to petition the hospital to correct something she considered wrong.

Ensslin, J.C. (2009, June 6). Nurse sues Memorial, claims surgeon threw human tissue at her. The Gazette. Retrieved from http://gazette.com/nurse-sues-memorial-claims-surgeon-threw-human-tissue-at-her/article/57418

Morris v. City of Colorado Springs, 666 F.3d 654 (2012)  LINK

Answer the following questions:

  1. What are the facts of the case? This should include: what do we need to know, who is involved in the situation, where does the ethical situation take place, and when does it occur?
  2. What is the precise ethical issue in regards to autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, fidelity, and justice?
  3. Identify the major principles, rules, and values of the case.  Values are sets of beliefs about good and bad, right and wrong, and about many other aspects of living and interacting in the society with others. A principle is a personal rule that governs personal behavior. A rule is generally imposed by a figure of authority, and used to guide and govern people.
  4. Is there legal ground for this case, if so what? Who is at fault? What legal action should be taken?
  5. Are there alternative to the actions completed in this case by both the nurse, physician, and healthcare facility? Do you feel the physician and nurse were following hospital protocol?
  6. If you were a member of the ethics committee at this facility, what actions or changes would you recommend changing? Why?

For the case study, an APA formatted paper should be used, and needs to include a title page, level headings, references and citations. This assignment should include at least 2 references and should be at least four pages in length. Students should address the proposed questions providing ample detail, examples, and additional support.

Assignment Expectations:

  • Length:
    • At least four pages in length; answers must thoroughly address each question in a clear, concise manner;
  • Structure:
    • Reference page required
    • address each question in a numbered list
  • References:
    • At least 2 references required
  • Format:
    • save your assignment as a Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx), Open Office (.odt) or rich text format (.rtf) file type

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