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Euthanasia: An Expression of Autonomy Essay

Introduction

According to the American Cancer Society (2015), it is estimated that there were 589,430 cancer deaths among men and women. Everybody has the right to autonomy and the autonomy factor of the individual plays a vital role when euthanasia is chosen to be used. It can be a very difficult time for the patient’s family and friends but it is the patient who is deeply suffering from the situation. Euthanasia is not a practice that is legal across America; instead it is only legal in 5 states which include Washington, Oregon, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. When understanding the use of euthanasia, it is very important to recognize the patients’ perspective. A physician must understand exactly what the mindset of the patient and their family before they proceed. This particular study researches and examines the autonomy aspect on the use of euthanasia from the patients’ perspective. It is also important to recognize that there are patients that are afraid of the legalization of euthanasia and the ones that decide to choose this option.

Background

Euthanasia is a practice used on patents to end their life in order to end the pain and suffering that is caused by cancer. Euthanasia has caused a lot of controversy over the years due to moral and religious reasons. However, there are patients all over the world that are suffering daily from the unbearable pain which is making them even consider the use of euthanasia. Some may argue that it is the autonomy of the patient should be the final ruling on whether or not euthanasia should be used. Others may say that although patient autonomy should be considered as an important factor on the use of euthanasia but it is viewed as a form of medical abuse.

Over the years the aspect of patient autonomy has shifted dramatically in which it now strongly overpowers paternalism. In this particular study, the researchers felt that is was important to fully understand the viewpoint of the cancer patients and what they truly feel about the use of euthanasia. Every patient has their own perspectives of euthanasia and this research aims to target the thoughts that revolve around the minds of these individuals. This can be a very complicated type of study because it is a very sensitive topic but the researchers feel that the in-depth interviews can reveal crucial information. There are many facts and information known about euthanasia but very little is actually noted by health professionals.

Patients and Methods

According to the researchers, there were a total of 66 informants that were interviewed for this study. It was also mentioned by the researchers that the study was “initiated in 1997, but due to one researcher’s own fatal disease, the project was postponed, but then restarted, with additional interviewing, in 2007” (Karlsson et al, 2011, p.35). The requirements were that patients had to be “over 18 years, suffering from cancer in a palliative phase… no obvious disorientation and not currently suffering from a psychological crisis” (Karlsson et al, p.35).

The patients were selected from five different units which consisted of various organizations and clinics. Each interview that was conducted was based on set topics that included matters based on the informants’ perspectives on euthanasia and its legalization in Sweden. It was also specified that each interview were examined in a qualitative manner and “tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim, ranging in size from 800 to 10,000 words” (Karlsson et al, p. 35).

Results

After conducting the interviews, researchers have come to a conclusion that there were many patients that had neutral opinions on the use of euthanasia. Furthermore, there were some patients who might actually consider euthanasia. Many also thought it was unnecessary to continue living with such harsh health conditions. With this study it was also realized that the perspectives on euthanasia were not particularly similar between the terminally ill patients. It was a very interesting discovery because there were patients that had two totally different viewpoints. The issue of trust is a very important factor when trying to determine their thoughts on euthanasia. The relationship between the family, patient and the physician were also brought up by the patients. These patients have very different views on the value of trust where some have complete trust, trust with some doubt, and absolutely no trust in the physicians and their family.

Ethical considerations

Before the actual research was conducted it was first approved by regional board of ethics. It was stated by the researchers that “The selected patients were provided with written information of the study by staff members, and if interested, they were approached by the researcher, receiving further information” (Karlsson et al., p. 35). It is important for health care officials to fully recognize the different perspectives and thoughts on euthanasia. Autonomy is a very large part of the decision and it is very important to consider their individual rights. Providing information to the patient and their family can always be helpful in their final decision. Because there are so many different viewpoints on euthanasia, it is very important for the health care providers to individually understand each patient’s needs.

Conclusions

This research can be critical to changing the personal thoughts of health care professionals. Although, this topic is a very complicated issue, this research tends to clarify many aspects of euthanasia. It was concluded that some patients wanted to make the final decision, others wanted guidance and help from the family, and some wanted the health care professionals to make the final decision. The trust factor plays a huge role in the use of euthanasia as these terminally ill patients may not always have right mindset to make a decision. Patient autonomy is considered to be more important nowadays in the field of health work as doctors and physicians have less influence on the decisions of the patients. Overall, with this study it shows the importance to recognize the various mindsets of these individuals.

References
American Cancer Society. (2015). Estimated Deaths for the Four Major Cancers by Sex and Age Group. Estimated Deaths for the Four Major Cancers by Sex and Age Group.

Karlsson, M., Milberg, A., & Strang, P. (2011). Dying cancer patients’ own opinions on euthanasia: An expression of autonomy? A qualitative study. Palliative Medicine. Vol. 26. Pgs 34-42.


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