Unit 2 Discussion: Ethics in Healthcare: Euthanasia

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Unit 2 Discussion: Ethics in Healthcare: Euthanasia

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The term euthanasia means “the act of ending the life of a person suffering from either a terminal illness, or an incurable disease.” The American Medical Association has a firm stance against physicians assisting in euthanasia. Oregon was the first state in the U.S. that allows for euthanasia with 6 others to follow. In 1997, the Death With Dignity Act was enacted in Oregon. Euthanasia advocates stress that it should be allowed as an extension of a person’s autonomy. Those against euthanasia often say it can lead to the devaluation of human life. Please read the following case and discuss the questions below.

A 60 year-old patient at Saint Catherine’s Nursing Home was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (ALS) five years ago. [This condition destroys motor nerves, making control of movement impossible, but does not affect the mind. Typically, individuals inflicted with this disease die within four years after the initial onset of symptoms due to suffocation]. The patient’s condition has steadily declined and he is not expected to live more than a few weeks. The patient is extremely worried about the pain that he will endure in his final hours and asks his doctor to give him Diamorphine (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. for pain if he begins to suffocate or choke. This will lessen his pain, but it will also hasten his death. The following week, the patient begins to have trouble breathing.

Research the Death with Dignity Act. Here is one website to help you get started: http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/index.aspx (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Please discuss the following questions in your initial post:

  • Is there a moral difference between prescribing the drug and actually giving it to the patient? If not, why have rules?
  • Why do you think they wouldn’t let a person who is terminally ill, and in pain with possibly more than six months to live, receive assistance in dying? What if a patient was diagnosed with HIV?
  • Does the justification of euthanasia necessarily justify the assisted suicide of a healthy person?
  • Do you think a weakness of this law is the probability of patients being influenced by family members? (For example, for financial or other reasons?) Note: Approximately 60% of Oregonians in 2000 said (before they died) that they used the prescription at least in some part due to fear of being a burden on their family.
  • The AMA states that euthanasia is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer. As a Healthcare Administrator, what do you think about this statement? Why should a physician have to be the one who does this?
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