Analysis of an Ethical Dilemma
One very debatable ethical dilemma in today’s society is euthanasia. Euthanasia, like any other medical treatment should be seen as a choice. As a society, there are obligations to the sick that should be up held, but morally and legally may not be supportable. There are many aspects that go with this choice besides the obligation. There are also stakeholders to consider as well as social values, morals and religious implications. Euthanasia is Greek for good death which translates into English as easy death or mercy killing. It was accepted by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Three Asian religious traditions accept euthanasia: Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism. It was rejected by the 3 main monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It has its supporters and opponents in all countries. Two types of patients are involved in euthanasia: (a) a patient in a persistent vegetative state who is awake but is not aware of self or the environment. Such a patient has no higher brain functions and is kept alive on artificial life support (b) patient in terminal illness with a lot of pain, psychological suffering and loss of dignity. The patient may or may not be on life support. There are different types of euthanasia. Active euthanasia, an act of commission, is taking some action that leads to death like a fatal injection. Passive euthanasia, an act of omission, is letting a person die by taking no action to maintain life. Passive euthanasia can be withholding or withdrawing water, food, drugs, medical or surgical procedures, resuscitation like CPR, and life support such as the respirator. The patient is then left to die from the underlying disease. Sometimes a distinction is made between normal nutrition and hydration on one hand and medical nutritional support involving intravenous and naso-gastric feeding on the other hand. Euthanasia can be by the patient or by the health care giver. Euthanasia can be voluntary when the patient takes the decision, non-voluntary when the decision is made by another person for an unconscious patient and involuntary when the decision is made contrary to the patient's wish. There are ethical implications of European and American arguments for and against euthanasia. Two arguments are made for active euthanasia: (a) mercy killing because of pain, psychological and physical suffering (b) the utilitarian argument is that euthanasia is desirable because it relieves the misery of the terminally ill. Two arguments are made against active euthanasia: (a) killing is morally wrong and is forbidden by religion (b) unexpected cures or procedures may be discovered to reverse the terminal condition. Nurses are the gatekeepers of the healing facility, although they may have their own outlooks based on their own ethical, cultural, and religious views (LeBaron, 2010). There are always value conflicts when it comes to euthanasia, which can be demonstrated by examining utilitarianism and rights. The nursing practice should be to keep patients alive, do no harm, do everything possible to save the life, and do good to everyone by respecting the right or autonomy of the individual patient. Although most of Americans presently think that physician-assisted suicide should be legal and no existing federal laws prohibiting the practice of euthanasia in United States, voluntary/assisted euthanasia is yet considered illegal and killing in all of the States but in Oregon, Washington, and soon Montana (Webster, 2009). First, Oregon and recently Washington passed a Death with Dignity Act and are actually the only places where euthanasia in terminally ill patients is legally and openly authorized (Blizzard, 2012). In 2009's Baxter v. Montana case, the Montana Supreme Court declared that no law in state constitution stops patients from practicing voluntary/assisted euthanasia (O’Reilley, 2010). Any time the legislature can act to join Oregon and Washington in the public arena....
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