Proposed Surgery During an International Pandemic

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Editor’s Note:

This column presents a problematic medical-surgical case that may pose a medical-ethical dilemma for patients, families, and healthcare professionals. As these cases are based on real medical situations, identifying features and facts have been altered to preserve anonymity and to conform to professional medical standards. In this case, a family must weigh the benefits and burdens of a proposed surgical procedure.


Is it ever appropriate to perform a surgical procedure if it is not medically necessary?


Nathaniel is presently an active 21-month-old infant. Overall, he has done exceedingly well since birth and has required no hospitalizations or surgeries. After the first several months of life, he began to develop increasing difficulty with nasal symptoms and sleeping difficulties, and ultimately developed perforated eardrums after having had several episodes of otitis media and treatment with appropriate antibiotics. There seemed, however, to be no problem with the infant’s hearing. Nathaniel’s father also had problems with his ears as a child, and ultimately required a tympanostomy tube placement.

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Cite as: Ferdinand D. Yates, Jr., “Proposed Surgery During an International Pandemic,” Ethics & Medicine 36, no. 3 (2020): 133–135.

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About the Author

Ferdinand D. Yates, Jr, MD, MA (Bioethics)
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Ferdinand D. Yates, Jr, MD, MA (Bioethics), is a medical staff member at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and has a private pediatric practice in the Atlanta area.

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