Medicine and Euthanasia

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Medical advances over the past hundred years have extend the life expectancy astronomically. Medicine provides hope that in the event of an “accident” we can be sure everything will be done to preserve our life, and that the healthcare community will exhaust all possibilities and resources in trying to accomplish this goal. Healthcare also give the reassurance of palliative care to ensure the remaining time on Earth is a painless as possible.

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However, there are those moments when medicine cannot achieve the goals it sets out to. There are times when the pain is still too much handle. It is during these times in which an individual should be able to decide if they wish to continue on. Physician assisted suicide, while ensuring all safeguards and last resort options such as palliative care are met, gives patients an important additional option to their end of life care.

Background / Presentation of Ethical Theory: Webster’s defines euthanasia as, “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.” According to the principalism theory, principalism uses key ethical principles of beneficence (do good), nonmaleficence (do no harm), autonomy (respect for the person’s ability to act in his or her own best interests), and justice in the resolution of ethical conflicts or dilemmas. Fidelity (faithfulness) and veracity (truth telling) are also important ethical principles that may be at work in managing ethical dilemmas. (Chitty & Black, 2011) This theory can be applied when discussing euthanasia. The first part of this theory is to do “good”. When a patient is experiencing unrelenting pain associated with a debilitating disease a physician can practice beneficence by eliminating their pain through euthanasia at the patients wish. It is important to note at the same time the physician must “do good” by ensuring euthanasia is the patient’s decision and the patient’s decision alone.

Another aspect of this theory that can be applied to euthanasia is the respect for the person’s ability to act in his or her own best interests. It seems a lot like murder when you think of administering a lethal drug; however, the patient has a right to make decisions about their health and how their end of life is carried out. Patients put their trust and faith in medicine and the health care providers that prace medicine. They trust that the physicians have their best interest in mind and have the knowledge to treat them. These aspects also play another role in the principalism theory—in that physicians have the ethical responsibility to be faithful and truthful to their patients at all time. Physicians should have the opportunity to explain to their patients that there is an option to end their pain and suffering should they wish.

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