Euthanasia Essay

4271 words - 17 pages

Euthanasia: Conceptual and Ethical DistinctionsMany conflicts arise as patients' quality of life deteriorates and there is seemingly no end to pain; these conflicts may be between physicians, patients, families, and other health care providers (Pozgar & Santucci, 2005). With changes in end-of-life care brought about by technological advances, there may be a need to redefine "quality of life" and a need to look at "dying with dignity" (Porter, Johnson, & Warren, 2005). Numerous legal and ethical dilemmas are inherent in these much debated topics of health care. This paper will address some of the dilemmas associated with euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.Determining DeathAs technology has improved and has been used increasingly to save and sustain life, the definitions of death have changed (Porter et al., 2005). Death has historically been defined as the "…irreversible cessation of the vital functions of respiration, circulation, and pulsation" (Porter et al., Death and How it is Determined section, ¶ 1). However, with the use of many life-sustaining devices, a newer definition of death includes the concept of human potential (Porter et al.). This concept of human potential includes the ability of the individual to communicate and interact with other individuals, to interact with the environment, and to react to a variety of stimuli (Porter et al.). When an individual lacks these capabilities, then they lack the requisite for life (Porter et al.).Death may be determined in a variety of ways, however, the most common way of determining death is by electroencephalography (EEG) of brain function (Porter et al, 2005). Porter et al. noted that when the EEG shows no traces of brain activity for 48 hours, the individual is considered to be brain dead, even when respiration and heart function may still be supported by technology (Porter et al.). However, according to the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA), death occurs when an individual has an "… (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem…" (Butts & Rich, 2005, p. 237).According to Butts and Rich, Munson reported that numerous groups have debated the following conceptions of death:Traditional. A person is dead when he is no longer breathing and his heart is not beating [cardiopulmonary death].Whole-brain. Death is regarded as the irreversible cessation of all brain functions no electrical activity in the brain, and even the brain stem is not functioning [death of the brain].Higher-brain. Death is considered to involve the permanent loss of consciousness… someone in an irreversible coma would be considered dead, even though the brain stem continued to regulate breathing and heartbeat [persistent vegetative state].Personhood. Death occurs when an individual ceases to be a person. This may mean loss of features that are essential to personal...

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