Palliative Care vs. Active Euthanasia
You may ask, what is palliative care? Palliative care is the use of medications to reduce consciousness for the relief of intolerable and refractory symptoms in patients with limited life expectancy. (Hauser & Walsh 577) Active euthanasia is physician participation in the administration of drugs that will result in death. Active euthanasia is banned in all states. Only Oregon and Washington have laws that allow physicians, under certain circumstances, to prescribe but NOT administer lethal drugs to people at the end of life. (Levine 94) Palliative care has become another option to hospice. Hospice requires the patient to give up any treatments intended to cure the disease. Palliative care has a lot of the same goals as hospice but allows curative treatments. Palliative care is available to individuals at any stage in a disease. Now to explain where palliative sedation fits into the equation.
Sedation is administering drugs that are to relieve pain or symptoms without causing loss of consciousness. It is a part of ordinary medical practice and used everyday in treatment of patients. Now palliative sedation comes into play when the severity of the patient’s pain and symptoms require higher levels of medications, and it is then that they may cause loss of consciousness, but it is important that this is not the result intended. (Taking Sides 95) When these drugs are used at this level, and cause loss of consciousness, and are kept at that level until the patient dies, is when the question of is this practice of palliative sedation ethically different from active euthanasia.
I want to give you a little bit of insight into the “yes” sides view on this matter. “Palliative sedation to unconsciousness is intended to relieve patient suffering and, like withholding or withdrawing life support, may also allow the natural process of terminal illness to...