For those unaware of it, Virtual Mentor is the American Medical Association’s green open-access medical ethics journal. IMO, it is quite good, and it has an extensive library of cases with expert commentary that is extremely helpful in teaching ethics in medical and health professional education.
The July 2014 issue addresses the theme of Ethical Issues in the Physician-Patient Relationship, and includes a case entitled Evaluating the Risks and Benefits of Participation in High-School Football. Commentary is provided by Michael J. O’Brien & William P. Meehan III.
The case involves 15-year-old Jesse, who wants to play high school football.
Jesse’s mother speaks up. “I’ve read that they’ve started placing sensors in players’ helmets, and they show that a lot of these boys are taking pretty hard hits. They say that concussions are actually more harmful than we knew about back in our day, and that over time all these head injuries could really cause damage to the brain. I’m worried, because Jesse’s already had one or two concussions in the past. Should we really let Jesse play football?”
Jesse’s father does not seem to share his wife’s concern:
Jesse’s father shakes his head and interjects: “Jesse’s brothers played high school football, and they got banged up pretty bad, but they’re fine. One of them has a scholarship to a good university, and he’s still playing football. I played the game myself when I was in school and it taught me a lot of important life skills—skills that served me as a unit leader in the Army and that I still use in running my business. I want Jesse to have the chance to play on a team and learn the value of sportsmanship. More important, I don’t want him hanging around after school with these other kids who are doing drugs and getting into trouble.”
The case and the analysis are detailed, thoughtful, and well-worth reading. Naturally, I disagree with the reasoning and the conclusion completely, so let’s take a look.