Prion Disease Contamination: Should We Disclose? (A)

8 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2018

See all articles by Elizabeth A. Powell

Elizabeth A. Powell

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Rebecca Goldberg

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Nathan Nair

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

In the A case, Rose Matthews, vice president for patient advocacy at University Hospital, must decide how to handle a startling discovery about patient risk. Weeks after a patient dies, lab results revealed the cause was prion disease, a deadly condition similar to mad cow disease. Since the diagnosis of this very rare condition was not known at the time of the patient's brain biopsy, surgical instruments used for the procedure were conventionally sterilized (rather than using special methods required to kill prions) and reused in up to 100 other surgeries. Now Matthews and her team must decide an ethical communication dilemma: (1) disclose the potential, though very low risk that patients may years later develop the disease; or (2) choose to protect patients from mental anguish related to worrying about a disease they most likely will not develop. The B case reveals that the medical team decided not to disclose this news to patients, only to have the news leaked to the media by a disgruntled hospital employee. The teaching note offers three potential teaching plans for this case depending on the desired learning objectives: (1) writing a risk or crisis communication plan; (2) setting up a two-minute role-play of an oral statement delivered at the beginning of an internal meeting or for a press conference; and (3) responding to the media leak.

Excerpt

UVA-BC-0269

Dec. 12, 2018

Prion Disease Contamination: Should We Disclose? (A)

Rose Matthews

Rose Mathews, RN, DNP, had worked at University Hospital (UH) for nearly 15 years. Prior to attending the University of Virginia's doctoral program, she had earned a BSN and an RN from Howard University in Washington, DC. She earned her DNP at the University of Virginia, and then relocated to take a job at UH and never looked back. As a prominent teaching hospital, UH was a great place to work, with much to offer the world in terms of medical advancements. Mathews also appreciated UH's ongoing commitment to making sure the right supports were in place for each stage of a patient's health care needs and was proud to now be at the forefront of this effort.

When Mathews got to her office at 7 a.m. on Monday, her phone rang almost immediately. As the vice president for Patient Advocacy at UH, she had many responsibilities, including acting as an intermediary between displeased patients and clinical staff. She took notes while listening to the caller, who was Dr. Radha Agrawal, Chief of Infectious Diseases at UH. She hung up and looked at what she had written: “Patient Lewis, wife Samantha,” “Mad Cow Disease??,” “6 weeks,” and “Possibly 100 PATIENTS exposed.”

. . .

Keywords: risk communication, crisis management, crisis leadership, crisis communication, health care, ethical decision-making, communicating with stakeholders, media relations, oral communication, public speaking

Suggested Citation

Powell, Elizabeth A. and Goldberg, Rebecca and Nair, Nathan, Prion Disease Contamination: Should We Disclose? (A). Darden Case No. UVA-BC-0269. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3301934

Elizabeth A. Powell (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-982-2730 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.edu/faculty/Powell.htm

Rebecca Goldberg

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Nathan Nair

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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