According to the ANA, euthanasia is the act of helping to end the suffering of an individual by assisting in their suicide wishes. (“Code for nurses,” 1985) This has been a topic of great debate for quite some time as certain individuals see this as inhumane and that no person has the right to determine when or how they die. Dr. Jack Kevorkian, also known as Dr. Death, assisted several individuals with suicide, which eventually landed him in prison. Is it ethical to want to help one end their suffering at their own request?
Should we dictate this for a terminal cancer patient that has gone several rounds with chemotherapy and no success or a person that has multiple sclerosis and no chance of regaining the same function they had at one time in their lives? The ANA released a statement stating that no nurse should ever take part in type of suicide or suicide assistance due to the fact that it directly violates the Nurses’ Code of Ethics. Nonmalfiece and beneficence are two codes that nurse live by daily and by helping to assist in the death of an individual you would not be protecting your patient from harm, or would you?
If a patient refuses care the nurse is not held accountable for harm to the patient. Current law states that euthanasia is unlawful I all states with the exception of Vermont, Oregon and Washington. One can obtain a court order granting permission in the state of Montana, making it legal. (“State-by-state guide to,” 2013) The European Convention gives a person the right to die. There is a current Suicide Act (1961) that still allows it to be a legal decision for the British. Some would state that this is a direct violation of autonomy.
Autonomy is allowing one the opportunity to make their own decisions and choices. In the Terri Schiavo case a young woman who was struggling with bulimia collapsed due to potassium imbalances. She suffered irreparable neurological damage that according to doctors she would not be able to recover from. Her husband Michael Schiavo, took care of her for two years and after hearing from several doctors that she would not recover he recalled a conversation that he and Terri had in which she stated that she would not want to be kept alive in a vegetative or irreparable state.
Michael chose to remove Terri’s feeding tube and allow her to die peacefully. Terri’s parents fought to appeal this decision and ultimately lost. According to The Independent, most people would agree that they have control of their bodies and should be able to choose how or if they will die. This argument is stating that humans having higher functioning capabilities and that autonomy should be favored. Many religious entities believe that this is God’s decision and that should be held in utmost respect.
Man should not be able to determine whether or not they will take their own life, it will happen in due time according to most religious organizations. Secular objections would state that we have rights that are limited to the repercussions for those left living. Most believe that as long as the repercussions are not detrimental or overwhelming that one should be given autonomous decision making abilities. Others pose the question, “Is dying bad? ” This is based on circumstances of the death and decisions made by the individual deciding to end their life.
The above-mentioned case was particularly difficult because the patient had no living will or any type of documents stating her wishes prior to her incident. Terri’s parents found it difficult to believe that they would not have been made aware of Terri’s wishes prior to her death. Michael Schiavo brought suit to doctors eventually winning a lawsuit in which $750,000 was awarded solely to him. Money often becomes a motivational factor in death as well. If a patient was to die and a family member were to inherit all of that person’s belongings it might make the decision a conflict of interest.
Libertarians suggest that as long as nobody is harmed and no other person’s rights are violated then it becomes morally acceptable. Another argument that was uncovered in research was that euthanasia might be necessary for the fair distribution od health resources, in essence saving and giving resources to those who are known to have a more favorable outcome. Immanuel Kant states that ethical principles should be accepted as a universal rule. You should do something only if you are going to do that exact same thing in the next identical circumstance.
A Utilitarian Theory applied to the above mentioned case would be that in choosing to discontinue her feeds by way of removal of her feeding tube, would be allowing her to decline naturally, not only providing a peaceful end of life process for her but to allow those were taking care of her relief from a difficult burden. Another utilitarian view would look at this as not putting either part of the family at financial burden due to expenses of ongoing full time care for Terri.
Euthanasia is a very sensitive topic that always needs to be examined carefully, with much thought and would benefit from the help of specific committees designed to deal with death with dignity. As nurses it is difficult to hear our patients tell us that they want to end their lives, but ultimately we need to be able to enlist help as needed and be able to view this process armed with knowledge. Resources Holm, S. (2010, July 31). Euthanasia: Agreeing to disagree. Medicine, healthcare and philosophy, 13, 399-402. http://dx. doi. org/10. 1007/s11019-010-9264-1 BBC. (2013). http://www. bbc. co.
uk/ethics/euthanasia/infavour/infavour_1. shtml State-by-state guide to physician-assisted suicide. (2013, 05 28). Retrieved from http://euthanasia. procon. org/view. resource. php? resourceID=000132 Code for nurses with interpretive statements. (1985). Retrieved from http://www. nursingworld. org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/ANAPositionStatements/Archives/prteteuth14450. html Michael schiavo’s side of the story [Television series episode]. (2006). In The Today Show. New York: NBC. Retrieved from http://www. nbcnews. com/id/12025860/ns/dateline_nbc/t/michael-schiavos-side-story/.