Confronting Death: Who Chooses? Who Controls? A Dialogue between Dax Cowart and Robert Burt http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/706/
1. Write A summary of the impact on social values, morals, norms, and nursing practice.
Appropriately identifies own position on issue, drawing support from lecture content, experience, and information beyond assigned sources. Integrates ethical theory and/or principle to substantiate position.
Case summary and position
The question of who chooses to live or to die in cases where the patient is in a bad condition is a complex question that raises numerous questions as to how far doctors and other caretakers can go in providing treatment to such a patient before allowing him to die. However, despite all the complexities associated with assisted euthanasia, it remains the patient’s decision as to whether he wants to live or to die (Werren, Yuksel & Smith, 2012). The medical professionals do not have a right to force certain treatments upon patients who are mentally competent, if such patients do not want to be treated because they have decided to die. Patients who want to choose assisted euthanasia should be fully apprised of their current condition and the treatment options available to them before being allowed to make their decision. It is important for a patient’s medical team to explore all the available options with the patient and to listen in order to address the patient’s main concerns about further treatment (Randall & Downie, 2010). For example, in Cowart’s case, the medical team would have been in a better position to convince him of the viability of treatment, if they had addressed his main concern about the excruciating pain he was going through.
The impact on social values, morals and norms
The medical profession and society at large has an unspoken belief that a patient’s life should be preserved at all costs, regardless of the patient’s wishes, until the point where no further measures can be taken to help the patient. However, this belief goes against the patient’s right to autonomy where a patient has the right to chose if he wants treatment, the type of treatment he wants, or if he wants to abandon treatment and die. This option is usually treated as a taboo subject as it is assumed that no person in their right mind would ever want to end their life, which as Dax Cowart has proven is not true. A patient in his right mind can decide to end his life for a variety of reasons and the medical professionals or his family should not take this decision away from him. It is an accepted norm within society that doctors and nurses should do everything in their power to save the lives of patients because it is the moral thing to do. However, assisted euthanasia challenges this norm by proposing that patients be allowed to choose whether they want to live or die (Varelius, 2013b). This proposition places the moral responsibility of living or dying on the patient and absolves society and other caregivers of the moral responsibility of preserving the patient’s life, especially if the patient wants to die.
Ethical theory that supports my position
At the heart of this debate lies the critical question of the right and freedom for a person to do whatever he desires with his life, which is a fundamental human right. In most cases where patients chose to die by undergoing assisted euthanasia, the patient is usually in excruciating pain or in a hopeless life situation whereby death might be a better alternative to living. In this regard, the medical professionals have the responsibility to determine if there is anything that can be done to alleviate the person’s suffering (Varelius, 2013a). However, if there is no medical remedy available and the patient is of competent mental state and has chosen to die, his wishes should be considered and granted. In such cases, allowing the patient to die relieves him of his pain and allows him to exercise his autonomy.
Randall, F., & Downie, R. (2010). Assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia: role contradictions for physicians. Clinical Medicine (London, England), 10(4), 323-325.
Varelius, J. (2013). Ending Life, Morality, and Meaning. Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, 16(3), 559-574.
Varelius, J. (2013). Voluntary euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and the right to do wrong. HEC Forum: An Interdisciplinary Journal On Hospitals’ Ethical And Legal Issues, 25(3), 229-243.
Werren, J., Yuksel, N., & Smith, S. (2012). Avoiding a fate worse than death: an argument for legalising voluntary physician-based euthanasia. Journal Of Law And Medicine, 20(1), 184-203.