Should People Have Autonomy over Their End of Life Decisions

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Critical and Creative Thinking|
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Submitted by: Tanya O’ NeillStudent Number: 20017571Date: 25th October 2012 | |

Introduction
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of people’s autonomy when it comes to the end of their lives. Why somebody would want to end their life prematurely is a question that puzzles people. So therefore is hard to comprehend why people should have autonomy over such a thing.

There has been an increase in the interest of euthanasia and assisted suicide for the terminally ill in recent years (Williams 1997). The most obvious reason for someone wanting to end their life is to end the suffering they are going through once the illness goes beyond being bearable.

Palliative care is an important part of treating a seriously ill patient. It provides a patient with care, support and any medical treatment they need including pain relief. But is this enough? A person that is extremely sick, for example, a terminally ill cancer patient, or a person that is paralysed from the neck down, or any person that is unable to do things for themselves – such as washing, eating etc., will need to depend on others to help them. This would involve somebody dressing them, washing them, feeding them – or having being fed via I.V., they would need help going to the toilet and may need to be lifted in and out of a bed. These peoples quality of life would be very low. They may be depending on family members for these things or medical professionals that are strangers to them. Either way, this can be an embarrassing and upsetting for a person. They may feel like they have lost all sense of dignity and some might feel like they are just waiting to die. People in these situations may often decide that the best option for them is to end their physical and emotional pain. If a doctor cannot improve an individual’s quality of life and they make that decision to end their suffering, the patient should have right to have their wishes met. Those that request assistance in dying are usually very desperate and do not see any other option.

There are vast amounts of arguments against autonomy at the end of ones life too. Religious perspectives. consequences on family, friends and healthcare professionals. Is it ethical? Would it begin a slippery slope towards involuntary euthanasia? But are these arguments and opinions stronger than a person’s right to choose?

The Argument

The subject of euthanasia is very controversial because there are very strong arguments at both ends of the spectrum. There are any justifications for and against the issue of one’s autonomy over their end of life decision.

Paterson (2008) states that religion plays a role in many people’s decisions against voluntarily ending one’s life. Most religions are strongly opposed to the idea that a person should want to end their own life and/or aid an individual in doing so. Other factors come into play such as conscience and morality. Some people see it as unlawful and more often than not, it is a very taboo subject that people would rather not discuss. (Paterson, 2008)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, one will argue that those who are terminally ill are going through unbearable suffering, they may need help going to the bathroom, eating and drinking and possibly feel like they have lost their dignity because of this. In an online article written for the Daily Mail, a man by the name of Tony Nicklinson describes his life as “miserable, demeaning and undignified” (Miller, 2012). The article describes how Nicklinson is mentally sound but physically paralysed from the neck down and took his plea for his right to die to the courts. This emphasises that euthanasia and assisted suicide can be a relief from pain and suffering, or in Tony Nicklinson’s case, an alternative to the quality of life he must struggle through on a daily basis. (Miller, 2012)

Many factors come into play when a person decides they no longer want to...
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