Ethical Challenges in Withdrawing Life Support

Topics: Physician, Ethics, Health care Pages: 3 (1204 words) Published: April 29, 2012
There are many serious issues for families to consider when faced with the prospect of removing life support for a loved one. My objective is to identify the key medical ethical considerations that are faced when considering the removal of life support for a patient. Then, I will draw some conclusions about the choices I would make if faced with the decision of having to remove life support for a member of my family. It may be that the decision to withhold or withdraw life support is most likely to pit the hopes and fears of patients and their families against medical science and their physician. Patients are compelled by powerful emotions (such as guilt) or by adherence to religious or secular traditions to behave in certain ways that may conflict with medical advice.2 Honest discussions with patients and their families about the benefits and burdens of therapy and the medical uncertainty that exists are necessary to provide patients and families with the best opportunity to make informed decisions. We know that honest direct communication is most important for patients and families faced to make life determining decisions. These health care workers must communicate within the medical ethics of their profession. Medical ethics is based on a four prima facie moral principles and attention to these principles' scope of application. The four prima facie principles are respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. “Prima facie,” a term introduced by the English philosopher W D Ross, means that the principle is binding unless it conflicts with another moral principle - if it does we have to choose between them.2 Respect for autonomy is the moral obligation to respect the autonomy of others in so far as such respect is compatible with equal respect for the autonomy of all potentially affected. Respect for autonomy is also sometimes described, in Kantian terms, as treating others as ends in themselves and never merely as means - one of Kant's...

Bibliography: 1. Gillon, R. "Medical Ethics: Four Principles plus Attention to Scope." BMJ. 16 July 1994. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <>.
2. Kellum, John A., and Michael J. Dacey. "Ethics in the Intensive Care Unit: Informed Consent; Withholding and Withdrawal of Life Support; and Requests for Futile Therapies." UpToDate Inc. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <>.
3. Williams, Mary E. "Should Physicians Be Permitted to Hasten the Deaths of Terminally Ill Patients." Terminal Illness: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2001. 111-25. Print.
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