The Gilgunn Case: Courage and Questions


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Abstract

Since the jury verdict was reported in the popular and professional press in 1995, clinicians and ethicists have been eager to hear more about the Gilgunn story. The verdict has been supported by attorney/ethicist George Annas [1] and criticized by attorney/ethicist Alexander Capron [2]. Now that the plaintiff has withdrawn her appeal, the first-person, bedside perspective may be told. Paris et al. [3] report in this issue in considerable detail not only the clinical events, but of the tense drama played out for over 2 months between professionals and family. How can we benefit from their experience?What ICU team or ethics consultant has not lived these weeks at some time? Different setting, different characters, different details, but the same issues, same tension, and same conflict. Could this case have been handled differently or better? Twelve Monday-morning quarterbacks (reviewing it 6 years after the fact) said it was handled acceptably. Now, 9 years after the patient's death, yet more wannabe quarterbacks have a chance to comment. This belated review looks briefly at the clinical considerations, the ethics deliberations, and the judicial proceedings.

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