Ethical And Unethical Dilemmas Hospice Workers Encounter When Patients Wish To Hasten Death

1805 words - 8 pages

Having six months or less to live or having an illness in which patients finds themselves faced with a decision on how they are going to spend those remaining days are issues that arise in the healthcare setting. For some it is making lasting memories with their loved ones, while for others it is trying to hasten their own death. Dilemmas have been encountered by hospice workers concerning the ethical and unethical issues of patients they are caring for when choosing alternatives rather than palliative. Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms of pain and stress of their illness while providing comfort measures. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and their family Making the Case (2014) Retrieved from http:www.capc.org. Palliative care is provided in a hospice setting or in one’s own home during his or her dying days. In a study of end-of-life care done in the United States it was found that patients in hospitals often do not have their needs for pain management or treatments provided to their full potential (Connor, 2007-2008, P.93). When a patient is suffering or they just don’t want to deal with waiting to die, they choose to take matters into their own hands by either Voluntarily Stop Eating and Drinking (VSED) or Patient Assisted Suicide (PAS). This paper will explain the ethical and unethical dilemmas that are presented in a hospice environment when dealing with VSED and PAS.
Cicely Saunders helped launch the first U.S. hospice in Branford, Connecticut. In 1973 it started treating patients at home. Hospice care has been considered as “appropriate care” with both palliative care and medications. Physicians, nurses, volunteers, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists make up the team in which care for the ill. Hospice’s goal is to maintain healing relationships and to allow the patient to live out their end-of-life days as comfortable as possible and to the fullest potential (Connor, 2007-2008, P. 90, 97). When patients decide not to live out their remaining days they opt for another option such as PAS.
PAS is an alternative for a patient to hasten their death. In 1997, Oregon passed the Oregon Death with Dignity Act (ODDA). Within this act a physician can write a prescription for medications such as barbiturates to a terminally ill patient. In order to proceed further, three requests are needed, two oral and one written. A second opinion is required by another physician to verify that the patient is terminally ill (Harvath, Miller, Smith, Clark, Jackson & Ganzini, 2006, P. 201). As of January 204, 122 people were written prescriptions for lethal medications during 2013 under the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA). Since 1997 when the law was passed 1,173 patients had a written prescription and 752 patients have died from taking the prescribed medications. 92% died at home while a large percent of the patients...

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