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Patient Safety or Personal Rights: Veteran Nurse Fired for Refusing Flu Shot

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A nurse who has worked at the same hospital for almost 22 years was fired after refusing a flu shot. Ethel Hoover would've worked at the Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital for 22 years exactly in February but she says the right to do what she wants with her body takes precedence over an anniversary–and that means refusing to have the flu shot. The news story highlights the tension between patient safety and personal rights and what the right is in a very difficult situation.

The Centers for Disease Control says that more than 15,100 flu cases have been reported since September 30 of last year, including 16 pediatric deaths. Indiana's flu activity level is also considered high by the CDC, prompting the hospital to take actions to protect patients. That meant firing 8 nurses, including at least 3 veteran nurses at the hospital, who refused to take a flu shot. Hoover even appealed several times, citing religious reasons, medical exemptions and two other appeals. But the hospital staff would not take no for answer.

The hospitals says that it is serious about the mandate because it is serious about patient safety. Based on recommendations from the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the Centers for Disease Control, it announced its decision in September 2012. Although Hoover and several other nurses refused, the hospital achieved a 95% compliance rate. What do you think? Should nurses and other medical professionals be required to get a flu shot to protect patients? Or is this too much of an infringement on personal rights?

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  1. Christina says:
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    I think the hospital overstepped its boundaries here. Yes, the hospital personnel are concerned for patient safety, but violating Ethel’s right to accomodate this is uncalled for. It is morally and ethically wrong for the hospital to put their mandates on Ethel’s body. How dare they!