Nurse Jackie: Ethical or Criminal?
In the latest episode of Nurse Jackie
(played by Edie Falco in this Showtime series), Jackie is quintessential Jackie. In past shows, we saw Jackie acting as a medical Robin Hood, never hesitating to rob from the rich (those who bestow health insurance) to help the poor (those who don't have it or aren't served well by their health insurance).
But in the April 12 show, Jackie truly breaks the law, making me so conflicted about this episode.
Here's what unfolds: In the emergency department, Jackie and Dr. Fitch "Coop" Cooper (played by Peter Facinelli) treat an emaciated, weakened cancer patient who is constantly nauseous as a result of chemotherapy. The patient says he has tried every anti-nausea medication known to medical science. To Coop's great shock, Jackie asks the patient if he's tried marijuana.
Hearing Coop's strong objections, Jackie later approaches the patient in private and sets him up with a "toke" of marijuana hidden in a hollowed-out apple, creating an apple pipe. And at her home, Jackie bakes "Alice B. Toklas" brownies for the patient and delivers them to him personally. There the man tells her he can actually enjoy watching TV and is feeling so much better for the first time in ages, thanks to her "prescription."
Of course, one can say, why would it be wrong to prescribe marijuana medicinally for nausea on one side of the Hudson River (the hospital where Jackie works is in New York) when right on the other side, in New Jersey, it recently became legal?
But if it's against the law, why suggest it to a patient (causing me to immediately recoil, thinking I might actually agree with anything Dr. Cooper said!)?
A dear friend who underwent the most grueling chemotherapy and radiation for cervical cancer saw Nurse Jackie's actions as the only right thing to do.
"The nausea from the treatments is so awful, you can't escape it," she told me. "You can't read, watch TV, or do any of the things you enjoy because the weakness and the urge to vomit is always there. It's terrible. It's all encompassing."
If nurses are a patient's strongest advocate, then what is the right thing to do?