The Ethics of Henry Perowne

When considering the characterization of Henry Perowne, several traits come to mind as questionable.  I was consistently confused or thrown off a little when considering Henry and his personality. The book opens with Henry watching a national disaster take place, one in which he thinks hundreds of lives must be lost. Luckily, Henry finds out later that the airplane was carrying cargo, not people, and that no one was harmed in the terrorist attack.  However, Henry does nothing at the time except watch this airplane go down in flames.  I was stunned that he didn’t call or yell or even wake his sleeping wife.

Is this a question of personality? Why does Perowne watch the plane go down and not even try and do anything?

Perowne’s decisions, in my opinion, just become more and more morally precarious as the book continues.  The culminating moral question is, of course, if Dr. Perowne should operate on the man that just held himself and his family hostage.  After invading their home, Baxter is thrown down the stairs and needs immediate help.  Perowne is the best doctor for the job, yet he is obviously personally attached to this man in a very negative way.  Is he morally obligated one way or another? If he did NOT help him, is he personally responsible for refusing the case that he could potentially have saved his life? But on the other hand, I personally could never, ever, condone a doctor operating on someone who had just forcefully invaded their home, made their daughter strip, and their father in law bleed… the list goes on and on.  I find it incredibly immoral that Perowne decides to operate on Baxter, and even more so that he decides not to press charges on this man. If the hospital or any fellow doctors had known the situation (especially his friend/colleague Jay Strauss) he would never have been allowed to operate.  Perowne’s own ethics have never compelled him to operate on someone he had known in the past.

Although Baxter was emotionally troubled with Huntington’s disease, he was also a DANGEROUS CRIMINAL and deserved punishment by the law.  Perowne sends him to a mental hospital to finish his days, but who is to say that other patients there won’t be in danger as well? Perowne’s actions, sympathetic or not, affect the lives of many.  He is very lucky that Baxter lived through the surgery because it is completely possible that he would have been charged with murder had he not.

Doctors have the moral responsibility to keep their feelings out of their professional work, especially when they have a choice like Perowne did.

– Stephanie Mills

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~ by vandysteph on April 2, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Ethics of Henry Perowne”

  1. I don’t know if it’s really fair to say that Perowne had a poor personality, because he didn’t respond to the plane crash. He thought about the situation logically and came to the conclusion that there would be nothing he could do for the plane (It was too far away, and other doctors would be on the scene before him) and there was nothing his wife could do (so there’s no point in waking her up, especially since she had a difficult case in the morning).

    But I would agree with all the concepts you presented in whether Perowne was dealing with the situation ethically. I believe that he was wrong as well, and especially wrong since he had been drinking before, and there were other doctors that could have been called.

  2. I would argue your last statement. Perowne DID keep his feelings out of his professional work. But he should have “come clean” about his prior “relationship” with the patient.

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