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#13 - Police published a "wanted" poster for a criminal

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Complete Question Explanation

Weaken—PR. The correct answer choice is (C)

The stimulus explains that a certain criminal fugitive has a non-infectious skin problem that will need treatment, so police have published a wanted poster in a medical journal. The stimulus then concludes that it would be ethical for a physician who provides care to the fugitive to report him. The stimulus argues that gunshot wounds and infectious diseases must be reported, and those exceptions to confidentiality are ethical.

The stimulus is severely flawed. Presumably, gunshot wounds evidence a deadly potential, and infectious diseases pose a danger to society. The ethics involved in reporting such dangerous conditions to the police are in no way applicable to reporting someone as a consequence of a visit for a non-infectious disease.

Since you are asked to leave the standard exceptions intact, but support the idea that it would be a violation of ethics if a physician responded to the poster, you should focus on the erroneous comparison the stimulus makes between medical conditions that are either cause or consequence of dangers to society and a medical condition that has no inherent relationship to such a danger.

Answer choice (A):This choice would establish that a physician must always yield any information that a law official happens to want, which would strengthen rather than weaken the stimulus, so this choice is wrong.

Answer choice (B): Though this choice may have been attractive, because it effectively destroys the stimulus, it is incorrect. The question stipulates that you must choose the answer that is consistent with the current exceptions (gunshots and infectious diseases), but not the proposed exception. This response goes too far and does not allow the standard exceptions.

Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer choice. This principle does not allow physicians to report identities except in the case of gunshot wounds. That would prevent the physicians from reporting the fugitive while preserving the exception for gunshot wounds. This choice also allow the exception for infectious diseases, because a physician does not have to report a patient’s identity in order to report the occurrence of an infectious disease.

Answer choice (D): Since disallowing physicians from disclosing a patient’s medical condition would prevent physicians from reporting gunshot wounds and infectious diseases, this principle would not allow the required exceptions, so this choice is wrong.

Answer choice (E): If physicians cannot report the medical conditions of their patients to law enforcement, they cannot meet the required exceptions, so this choice is wrong.
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Hi. can you explain using conditional reasoning please since this question and answer choices do contain obvious conditional reasoning natures.
Adam Tyson
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Most principles are conditional in nature, lathlee, even when the stimulus is not. Much like a Justify the Conclusion question, where you are looking for an answer that makes the premises sufficient for the conclusion, or assumption questions, where the conclusion is sufficient for the correct answer choice, conditional reasoning can be at play in answers even when the stimulus has no conditional elements.

Here, we would not encourage you to pursue a conditional reasoning diagrammatic approach to the question, because the stimulus is not a conditional argument. Instead, prephrase an answer that will allow two things to be consistent with each other: the requirement that physicians report gunshot wounds, and the claim that reporting this particular fugitive to the police would violate medical ethics. This one reads a lot like a Resolve the Paradox question, so perhaps try thinking of it that way. What would allow these two things to coexist?

Yes, the answers are conditional, but diagramming them is not much use to you since you cannot then plug those conditionals back into the argument in some useful way. Rather than forcing yourself to follow a conditional path, use your prephrase to select the answer that tells you what you need in order to reconcile the two claims.

Not everything needs to be tackled conditionally, lathlee, not even when conditional language is present in the answers. Reserve that approach for conditional arguments or fact sets found in the stimulus.
Adam M. Tyson
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I did not choose C because it only mentions gunshot wounds. I didn't equate the idea that mentioned gunshot wounds to police authorities meant they had to reveal the identity of the patient and I did not equate the idea that when reporting a disease that they would definitely not reveal the identity.

C seemed like it was neglecting what was said about "certain infectious diseases." I did not like any of the other choices really, but I definitely did not like C because it seemed incomplete. Is this supposed to be common sense?
Rachael Wilkenfeld
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Hi Mr. Cheese,

We can assume that the physicians give out the patients identities in the cases of gunshot wounds and certain infectious diseases because the stimulus states that they are exceptions to confidentiality requirements. If they weren't revealing the identity of the patients, they wouldn't be breaking confidentiality requirements anyway. So the fact that those cases are exceptions indicates that the physicians are disclosing the patient's identifying information.

Answer choice (C) didn't need to address certain infectious diseases because it was only dealing with disclosure to police. The infectious diseases were to be disclosed to public health officials. Since the wanted poster was also asking for disclosure to police, the answer choice explains that gun shot wounds are the only reason physicians should disclose patient information to police. This draws the needed distinction between the gun shot wound case and the fugitive case.

Hope that helps!