Do You Risk One to Possibly Save Two?
By Noah Evslin, Director of Medical Research
If you watch our show closely, you'll realize it's not the medical treatments that make Private Practice different than other shows on television; rather, it's the ethical debates surrounding the myriad decisions our doctors need to make every week.
In episode 516, "Andromeda," we meet Addison's patients, LAUREL EPSTEIN and her partner DANI MILES. Laurel is pregnant with twins and we very quickly discover that she's facing every pregnant woman's worst nightmare – one of her twins has a life-threatening problem, a severe diaphragmatic hernia which is preventing the lungs from forming properly. If left untreated, the baby won't be able to breathe on its own after delivery. The only way to fix this problem is to undergo a risky in-utero surgery, which is dangerous enough when you're only dealing with one baby, but when you're dealing with two babies... the risks become almost unfathomable (for both the mother AND the unborn babies). This, of course, brings us to this week's ethical debate:
If faced with this situation, do you do nothing knowing that one of your babies might die? Or, do you risk the life of the healthy baby to try and save the sick one?
This is definitely not a situation that any mother wants to be in, especially since this type of surgery is risky and could result in two dead babies. That being said, Dani and Laurel's problems don't just end there. Here is a secondary problem they're facing:
What if the parents of a sick child don't agree on a plan of action? Who gets to decide?
Normally, in the case of an unborn child, the mother gets to make the decision for the fetus growing in her stomach. But, in this somewhat unusual case, we have two mothers – and while Laurel might be carrying the babies, they're Dani's eggs. And they definitely aren't on the same page about what to do. Laurel feels like it's her body and that the risks are too high. Dani, on the other hand, is adamant that they do everything they can to save both babies, as she doesn't want to say goodbye to either one of them.
Could this decision be any harder? Poor Violet and Addison are caught in the middle. Addison feels like she can save both babies, but she admits there's a good deal of risk. Violet is just trying to keep the couple together as their disagreement is tearing their relationship apart.
Addison ultimately convinces Laurel to have the surgery and manages to save both babies. But what if Addison wasn't able to do it? What if one of the babies died? Or, worse, both of the babies died? Do the ends justify the means in this situation?
In other words, do you think Addison made the right decision to risk the life of one baby to save the life of the other?