An interesting philosophical conundrum arose at a sub acute hospital at which I see patients. These are not the plastic surgery patients you see on reality television. They are ill complicated patients too sick to go home. Sometimes they are people with brain injuries after having had surgery or a stroke.
What do you do when one of them gets a skin cancer?
I was asked to see such a patient recently and seeing what I believed to be an obvious skin cancer I obtained a biopsy. Another doctor seeing the patient asked me why I bothered. To him operating to remove the cancer for this patient was a “waste of resources.” I respectfully disagreed. Most skin cancers do not kill, but this one had obviously been left alone for quite a while. It had grown large and will likely leave deformity when (or if) it is removed. But not doing anything dooms the patient to a slow erosion of his facial features. It was pretty ugly. In my opinion it would have been better to remove this cancer when it was much smaller, but I didn’t see him then.
Unfortunately entertaining removal of the cancer opens more questions. The man does not have a conservator for medical affairs. Until one is appointed, consent for surgery cannot be obtained unless two doctors document an emergency. This is not an emergency.
My philosophy is to obtain evidence of cancer and present this to the patient or medical guardian with a series of options. This seems to be a matter of opinion.
The philosophy of your doctor makes a difference in your care. This is an interesting crossroads of such philosophies.
John Di Saia MD
Originally posted 2010-12-15 07:30:54.