Dax’s Case Redux: When Comes the End of the Day?
Abstract

Forty years after Dax Cowart fought to have his voice heard regarding his medical treatment, patient autonomy and rights are at the heart of patient care today. Yet, despite its centrality in patient care, the tension between a severely burned patient’s right to stop treatment and the physician’s role in saving a life has not abated. As this case study explores, barriers remain to hearing and respecting a patient’s treatment decisions. Dismantling these barriers involves dispelling the myths that burn patients must grin and bear intense pain to recover and that a patient’s choice to discontinue treatment equals physician failure. Moreover, in these situations, sustained, direct engagement between physician and patient can reduce the moral distress of all involved and enable physicians to hear and better accept when a patient is calling for the end of the day.


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