Phyician Assisted suicide ethical issues - Essay Example

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The purpose of this paper is to examine whether various ethical and moral theories offer appropriate guides or frameworks for physicians to consider when deciding whether to assist patients who have expressed a desire to end their own life. …
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Phyician Assisted suicide ethical issues
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Download file to see previous pages This study does not relate to the question whether it is moral or ethical for the patient to commit suicide or to ask a doctor to help him do so. It deals solely with whether there are situations in which arguments can be made that a doctor is acting ethically or morally in helping the process. Obviously if one takes the position that suicide is always unethical, immoral or illegal, no matter what the circumstances, then it follows that a doctor’s participation in the process must attract the same judgment as it would have to be considered as aiding and abetting a criminal, immoral, unethical act. However if one considers suicide ethical and/or moral (even if illegal) at least in certain circumstances, then if a physicians assistance is sought by the patient, one can argue that these are separate considerations that should govern the possible help provided by the doctor. When most people think of suicide, they visualize overt acts performed by people intending to end their own life, for example, such as by shooting oneself or by deliberately ingesting poison. However, I would argue that the concept of suicide should be broadened. It should also include failure to do what is required to sustain life, for example stop eating. Furthermore, it should include possible future acts where a patient has expressed a desire to end his own life under certain circumstances even if that desire is not expressed at the time of the life ending act or the patient does not participate in or is unaware of the act at the time. For example, if a patient of sound mind states in writing or orally that if he becomes brain dead, he wants life support systems to be disconnected , he is effectively committing suicide even though he does not personally disconnect the machine because his death is his own intention, not that of others including the physician. However, the desire must be communicated to others either at the time of life support connection or in advance if he is in a coma and unable to make the request. Even if the patient has that intention, but does not communicate it, I would argue that the act of ending his life by turning of the respirator would have to be considered as murder by the doctor, even if done with the best of intentions such as ending pain for a terminally ill patient, as the person/s intentions cannot be assumed and I would argue this is the most important factor distinguishing suicide from murder by others. I now turn to the various ethical frameworks for analyzing a physician’s approach to the use of his moral and ethical obligations to participate in doctor assisted suicide regardless of the legalities. Utilitarianism This theory initially postulated that a person’s actions should be judged on whether they generally produce significantly more widespread pleasure or pain, and later whether overall good or bad outcomes prevailed. (West Encyclopedia Britannica) In other words, the end of a good outcome could justify the means. I would argue that the application of this theory as a guide for physician assisted suicide has problems both quantitatively and qualitatively. How does one measure units of good and bad outcomes? More importantly, what constitutes a good outcome and for whom? For example, terminally ill patients suffering constant severe pain may argue hat they have nothing to lose, for nothing could be worse, and liberation from their agony is the best possible outcome. On the other hand, society at large, especially Western culture which values the preservation of life above all else, would consider allowing physician assiste ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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