Are Physician Assisted Suicide And Euthanasia Ethical?

1751 words - 7 pages

Is Euthanasia Ethical? 

      Euthanasia is one of the most acute and uncomfortable contemporary

problems in medical ethics.  Is Euthanasia Ethical?  The case for euthanasia

rests on one main fundamental moral principle: mercy.


      It is not a new issue; euthanasia has been discussed-and practised-in

both Eastern and Western cultures from the earliest historical times to the

present.  But because of medicine's new technological capacities to extend  life,

the problem is much more pressing than it has in the past, and both the

discussion and practice of euthanasia are more widespread.


      Euthanasia is a way of granting mercy-both by direct killing and by

letting the person die.  This principle of mercy establishes two component

duties: 1. the duty not to cause further pain or suffering; and 2. the duty to

act to end pain or suffering already occurring. Under the first of these, for a

physician or other caregiver to extend mercy to a suffering patient may mean to

refrain from procedures that cause further suffering-provided, of course, that

the treatment offers the patient no overriding benefits.  The physician must

refrain from ordering painful tests, therapies, or surgical procedures when they

cannot alleviate suffering or contribute to a patient's improvement or cure.

Perhaps the most familiar contemporary medical example is the treatment of burn

victims when survival is unprecedented; if with the treatments or without them

the chances of the patient's survival is nil, mercy requires the physician not

to impose the debridement treatments , which are excruciatingly painful, when

they can provide the patient no benefit at all.  Although the demands of mercy

in burn contexts have become fairly well recognized in recent years, other

practises that the principles of mercy would rule out remain common.  For

instance, repeated cardiac resuscitation is sometimes performed even though a

patient's survival is highly unlikely; although patients in arrest are

unconscious at the time of resuscitation, it can be a brutal procedure, and if

the patient regains consciousness, its aftermath can involve considerable pain.

Patients are sometimes subjected to continued unproductive, painful treatment to

complete a research protocol, to train student physician, to protect the

physician or hospital from legal action, or to appease the emotional needs of

family members; although in some specific cases such practises may be justified

on other grounds, in general they are prohibited by the principle of mercy.

Weather a painful test or therapy will actually contribute to some overriding

benefits for him or her, they should not be done.


      In many such cases, the patient will die whether or not the treatments

are performed.  In some cases, however, the principle of...

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