Dilemma 3: Voluntary/Assisted Euthanasia
Potential Alternatives and Consequences to Dilemma (Based on Interviews) Please write about this related to the topic and use the interviews below.
Confronting Death: Who Chooses? Who Controls? A Dialogue between Dax Cowart and Robert Burt http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/706/
The Terry Schiavo Documentary http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cki55BM42kw
I interviewed an RN that works in the ICU with me at the community hospital. Her name is C.P. We see a wide array of patients ranging from MIs to things like respiratory failure. We see patients and families struggle with death on a daily basis. The act of voluntary euthanasia is when a person assists or causes death of another person. The thought behind this is that the person’s life is not of good quality and that the person is actually suffering. The person’s motives are to benefit the patient suffering. The act of physician assistance in voluntary death has been a huge dilemma. The act of involuntary euthanatizing is that the patient is not of mind to make the decision for themselves and it is left for the family and medical team to decide.
C.P believes that voluntary euthanasia is humane and that if a person believes that this is the best for them, then their suffering should end how they wish. Hopefully it can be done in a way that does not cause the patient any more suffering. She has seen when patients have been begging to just let them die and to please stop making them suffer. We always think as nurses we are helping, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. As far as involuntary, C.P. has recently seen this happen. A man came in with seizures and was completely unresponsive. He was on the vent and to control his seizures he was on 10mg of versed. He started to have a respiratory pattern to where after every third breathe he was having hitched breathing which is indicative of brain death. The only son, which happens to be the only family that the man has, wants nothing to do with him. His son would not even make the decision to remove the ventilator and let his father go. The doctors said that they would not make the decision to take the man off of the ventilator; many said they could not make the decision because they didn’t know what the man’s wishes had been. The hospital is now working to get a legal guardian for the man, who has now been in the hospital with brain damage for over a month now.
C.P. does not see much of an alternative to these issues. As long as they are ethical issues there will never be a black and white answer she says, and that every patient and scenario will be different.
The interviewee for this paper was done on a fellow community member, initials J.J., who is a State Trooper. The scenario was explained and he provided the following responses.
As a State Trooper, J.J. sees his fair share of violence and death on the job; he responds to a lot of suicide calls more often than he’d like. When it comes to forming an opinion on Voluntary Euthanasia, J.J. supported to act but it also depended on the circumstances surrounding the situation. As previously mentioned, J.J. responds to a lot of suicide calls and he feels in terms of deciding to end their life in situations where you are leaving behind family and kids that the consequences of this action outweigh the persons desire to die; this is highlighted by the Utilitarian approach. “Therefore, the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined not by the intent or measure of character required to do good, but by the measure of good produced as an outcome” (Grand Canyon University, 2011).
When asked if he feels the same way if the situation were different and the person was medically diagnosed with a bad prognosis and suffering was evident; his theoretical principals than changed. He had a more Ideal Observer approach to coming up with an honest opinion on the subject. He felt that when it comes to illness and impending death, and suffering is something that cannot be controlled; they should be allowed to pass with dignity. He still does not like the idea of leaving behind family and kids but ultimately putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for this particular scenario helped him develop his opinion.
Father Chukkananil is a Roman Catholic priest with a doctorate in Theology.
According to Fr. Chukkananil, the Church views euthanasia as a wrongful act. The Church believes that life, itself, is a sacred gift from God, which should be preserved and made fruitful. Life is meant to be lived according to God’s plan, not as how the individual sees fit. Because human beings were created in the image and likeness of God, it is believed that God’s presences lies within every human life. Therefore, no one has the right to end a God-given life. According to Church teachings, any intentional act of taking one’s own life is the equivalent of committing murder, as it goes against the principle of the right to life. It is a rejection of God’s sovereignty and plan. There are no justifications for bringing an end to life. According to the Church, life starts at the time of conception, and therefore must be preserved accordingly so. Even when a patient is in a vegetative state, they still have life within them. Life should be sustained and preserved until the moment of natural death.
The Church sees any action taken to help preserve and sustain life as a good one. In Ordinary precautions of care, such as proper nourishment and medical care, are usually within the realm of care of the patient and their family. There are some extraordinary means used to care for a person. These means include, but are not limited to ventilators, dialysis, and feeding tubes. But should a patient’s family decide to stop or refuse the administration of an extraordinary mean, it is considered acceptable since these means may not have any reasonable benefit to the life of the patient.
After explaining the scenario to the interviewee, NS, a current hospital administrator and former Registered Nurse, provided the following answers.
NS’s values and ethical position are closely tied to her previous work as a Registered Nurse, practicing and leading under the Hippocratic Oath “do no harm.” Harm to those with long-term, incurable and completely debilitating conditions is difficult for NS to watch. In cases of voluntary/assisted euthanasia, she supports the choice of the patient. In the hospital administrator role, this concept is still important to her and she supports and guides healthcare staff to be free from influence of personal matters while practicing legally and abiding by all laws.
Her beliefs mirror Katherine Kolcaba’s Comfort Theory: Relief, Ease, and Transcendance. Additionally, her previous nursing practice had revolved around autonomy, nonmaleficence and paternalism in regards to these situations. Reflecting on the Utilitarian Theory is what is best for most people that encounter these types of situations. However, keeping in mind that healthcare staff is making legal decisions and abiding by civil law while supporting the needs of their patients, a concept of deontology is also supported.
Respecting the concept of autonomy, NS believes that, if painful death is inevitable and the patient has made the difficult decision to end their life, counseling and supportive resources need to be offered. If the patient is still determined to die humanely, relief, ease, and transcendence is what is best for the patient and there is no alternative.