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Defining Death snd Ethical Issues of Forgoing/Withdrawing Treatment - Essay Example

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(Name) (Course) (Date) Defining Death and Ethical Issues of Forgoing/Withdrawing Treatment Following phrase interested me the most and made me think: “When a respirator is breathing for an individual, in what sense, if any, can that person be said to be alive?…
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Defining Death snd Ethical Issues of Forgoing/Withdrawing Treatment
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Defining Death and Ethical Issues of Forgoing/Withdrawing Treatment Following phrase interested me the most and made me think: “When a respirator is breathing for an individual, in what sense, if any, can that person be said to be alive? In what sense, if any, can that person be considered dead?” The above dilemma forces us to distinguish between life and death, and more importantly accurately define death. Artificial life support and ethical issues surrounding it is the main reason that the author has addressed the above question and most of us will have to address it at some point or another in our lives. If a person is in coma or vegetative state and is supported by artificial respirator, there are two questions that arise: 1. Is the person dead or alive 2. Should we forgo or withdraw treatment In order to answer the first question, we need to define death accurately. In the book, the author has discussed four different approaches to defining death but the one that I believe is most accurate is the one by The President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioural Research: “An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory function, or (2) irreversible cessation of all function of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.” This definition combines two different approaches of cardio-pulmonary death and brain death. The author does not draw strong conclusions, instead lives it to the reader to ponder upon the topic. I believe that this definition must be used universally to define death. It accurately defines death as the presence of either one of the conditions will mean that the body is not functioning naturally and hence the person must be declared dead. The second dilemma, one with greater ethical implications, is whether to continue or withdraw treatment when clear judgement of death is not possible. This interests me because it brings numerous aspects into the picture and poses a great challenge to those concerned. First is the logical decision of whether to continue treatment of a patient who has very less chance of returning to regular/normal state as opposed to the treatment of a patient who has greater chances of survival and retuning to regular/normal state. This is a very tricky decision to make. Continuing the treatment of a patient who has very less chances of coming out of the coma or the vegetative state would not make logical sense and would be waste of resources that could be put to better use to save a person who has better chances of survival. Another important aspect to be considered here is the right to live with respect to the quality of life. Many argue that every person has a right to live and if there is a chance of keeping him/her alive with the help of technology, then it must be used. But the quality of life also must be taken into account. Life is defined by the experiences and emotions that we feel. But in a coma or a vegetative state, the patient has no experiences and hence can feel nothing. This means that the quality of life is very poor. With respect to the above aspects I believe, the patient with greater chances of survival must be preferred over one with less chances and quality of life must be preferred over the right to live. This stance can be justified using scientific, religious as well as logical reasoning. Scientifically and logically speaking, technology and development must be used to achieve greater good. In the current context, greater good would be restoring a person to normal as opposed to keeping the person alive in a vegetative state. The resources that are needed to either of the above are expensive and scarce and hence it must be put to best use. Therefore, the one with greater chance of survival should be given the treatment and the treatment of the other should be withdrawn. With respect to quality of life, life is best defined by the experiences one has. If a person cannot experience anything, then that person is as good as dead. The existence of that person cannot be justified by religious or scientific reasoning. Death is best defined by the absence of complete respiratory activity or brain activity. On establishing that a the chances of restoring a person back to normal life from a coma or a vegetative state, it is best to withdraw treatment by choosing quality of life over right to live. Quality of life must be preferred over the right to live, especially when the decision cannot be made by the one concerned. Read More
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