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Doctors’ Ethics of ‘Cherry-Picking’ Patients


The ethical issues in medicine are among the most complicated and most frequently discussed. One of the problems that recently appeared is the cherry-picking of patients by doctors. Another topic with ethical roots is an old one and is related to keeping patients alive and doctor’s decisions. The opponents do not come to a single conclusion in the argument if doctors have the voice and the right of choice or the duty should prevail.

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Cherry-Picking Patients

The issue of cherry-picking is widely discussed. The research which questioned 7,500 physicians revealed the fact that over one-third of doctors would like to cherry-pick patients. Thus, 17% stated they would appreciate the opportunity to choose the patients, and 20% admitted that their choice would depend on the situation (Minemyer, 2017). However, the majority of doctors participating in the survey (63%) said they would not like to cherry-pick.

The article by Cohen (2017) provides several citations of doctors and nurses on the problem of cherry-picking. Some healthcare professionals consider cherry-picking a normal process; others believe it is not ethical. The supporters of the opportunity to choose to speak of the factors which influence this problem. These factors include dysfunctional legal systems in the sphere of medicine, financial concerns, and drawbacks in the insurance system. The opponents remind of the Hippocratic Oath and the responsibility of doctors.

I believe that the desire to cherry-pick patients is not a crime. However, it should not touch urgent medicine, intensive care, and other spheres where delays are dangerous for the patients’ lives. Moreover, cherry-picking should not become a general practice. It can be an exception in case a doctor cannot be helpful. In other cases, the profession obliges a doctor to fulfill their duties and help people.

Should Doctors Decide When It’s Futile to Keep Charlie Gard Alive?

One of the most dedicated and complicated aspects of medical ethics is the one related to keeping a person alive or letting him, or her go when doctors say nothing else can be done. It is known as passive euthanasia and is a matter of many arguments (Boylan, 2014). However, the attitude to this problem differs depending on the country and healthcare principles.

For example, in the case of Charlie Card, British doctors advised to stop life-supporting interventions since the condition of the boy was serious and nothing could be done (Caplan, 2017). It is accepted in the UK that doctors make decisions on such issues. Nevertheless, the boy’s parents decided to go to the United States to continue the treatment. In the US the hospital policy is that the family decides whether to keep their relatives alive even if doctors realize there is no chance for recovery.

I consider this question needs not only ethical but also legal regulation. Thus, the family should have the right to decide on the life of a person. However, in case doctors say the patient is hopeless, he or she should be moved to private clinics or receive care at home. It will help to free the place in intensive care units for those patients who still have chances for recovery.

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Despite the difficulty of ethical decisions, doctors make them every day. However, their decisions should be guided by the sense of responsibility and the awareness of the possible consequences. Moreover, it is necessary to consider that the primary concern of healthcare is not to harm the patient but contribute to his or her positive outcome.


Boylan. M. (Ed.). (2014). Medical ethics (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: John Willey & Sons.

Caplan, A.L. (2017). Should doctors decode when it’s futile time to keep Charlie Card alive? Medscape. Web.

Cohen. B. (2017). The ethics of cherry-picking patients. Medscape. Web.

Minemyer, P. (2017). One-third of docs would like to cherry-pick patients. Fierce Healthcare. Web.

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