In the latest Chicago Med episode, In The Valley of the Shadows, we see significant medical ethical issues addressed as Dr Ethan Choi (Brian Tee) and Dr Daniel Charles (Oliver Platt) disagree over the best cause of action to treat a young man who intentionally wanted to kill himself so that his body could be placed in suspended animation until there is a viable cure for his condition.
Many people consider cryogenics a dangerous fad, but there are individuals that buy into the hype simply because of their fear of dying.
After receiving no information as to why there’s a patient waiting in Treatment Room 4, Ethan heads in that direction. On his arrival, he finds Todd Shepard (Zachary Keller) making arrangements with a company for his body to be placed in cryonic suspended animation until there is a cure for his condition. For this to happen, the patient must be first declared legally dead. Because of Ethan’s commitment to the Hippocratic Oath, he has a deeply held belief what is playing out is ethically unconscionable.
To further his goal, Shep has been drinking a cocktail of drugs which will allow his plan to move forward. Ethan immediately orders a stomach pump, but because Shep is in possession of a DNR, Maggie has no choice but to stop the doctor from treating his patient. Ethan is legally prohibited from forcing treatment on a patient. The only way Ethan can prevent Shep from carrying out his plan is to seek an opinion from a psychiatrist. If Shep is declared mentally unfit, it voids the DNR.
Ordinarily, one would assume Daniel a reasonable doctor. When the psychiatrist is asked to evaluate Shep’s mental condition, we find Daniel siding with the patient rather than Ethan. From Ethan’s perspective, he sees a patient that he’s being sent to “a better hospital … in the future.” Even though there is no time travel involved in the procedure, Daniel correctly observes Shep doesn’t really know if there will ever be a cure for his condition in the future.
With a comparison made to the Apollo astronauts, there’s no doubt Shep is seriously delusional. Unfortunately for Ethan, the patient is technically not legally insane. Consequently, because of how Daniel sees the issue, Ethan isn’t satisfied with the evaluation.
An individual representing the cryogenics company arrives at Chicago Med’s ED to commence the freezing procedure. Before the procedure can begin, Shep’s parents arrive at the hospital and plead with Daniel to stop the circus from moving forward. With crash alarms sounding in the background, further questions are asked to determine whether Shep is mentally unfit. With all questions addressed by the parents in the affirmative, Ethan rushed to stabilise Shep before it’s too late.
Even though Shep’s parents aren’t happy with Daniel, they ultimately decide to remove their son from life support and allow the procedure to move forward. Ethan declares Shep dead. A declaration of death allows the cryonics people to enter the treatment room and begin their work.