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Ethical Dilemma: Justifying a Right to Die


Everyday we hear of death cases occurring in hospitals. Some of the death cases are on a voluntarily basis while others are involuntarily. The concept of a right to die is a central debate on the issue of euthanasia. Application of ethics on the other hand has become very critical especially in clinical practice set ups. This essay presents a discourse on the ethical dilemma of whether there are circumstances that justify one to have a right to die.

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At a personal level, I think that one has right to die. This is because I have never heard of any person being arrested because of refusing to take some treatment which could have sustained his or her life, leave alone arresting someone because he or she tried to end his or her life. Furthermore, I think that a right to live also implies a right to die. In my own understanding, right to live basically means right to live a life without pain or distress. However, this is not ethically right as God alone has the right to end life.

Under certain conditions, health care professionals painlessly put to death or withdraw treatments that could have sustained life allowing a patient to die. This is commonly known as euthanasia. Euthanasia can be voluntary where the patient voluntarily requests to die or it can be involuntarily where the patient is not capable of making the decision to die so the health professionals or the next of kin makes that decision. In my own opinion, under no circumstances should health care professionals consider right to die as an option. This is because their main obligation is to preserve life and not to put an end to it.

In the bible, God created man in his own image (Genesis 1: 27) and gave him breath (Genesis 2:7). In Deuteronomy and Samuel, he said that he is the one who brings death and life. This therefore means that no one has a right to end another person’s life irrespective of prevailing circumstances. It is therefore very important that every individual respects life simply because it is a gift from God and he alone is the creator and sustainer of life (Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, 2006).

A family has the responsibility of ensuring that the family member is sick lives a quality life. By quality life I mean life that is worth living. The family ought to provide moral and social support as well as physical support to the family member who is ill.

Right to die Scenario

A man got infected with HIV Aids and eventually infected his wife. A few years later, the husband died living the entire burden of providing for the family to his wife who had no job. As years went by, the wife could no longer provide the children with even the basic necessities. Her health had deteriorated to the extent that she was incapacitated. She gave a go ahead for her children to be taken to a recue centre. She was confronted with a burden of buying medication and was in a psychological distress because she could not provide for her children. After enduring endless pain and stress of seeing her children being moved away she voluntarily requested a doctor to end her life.

In reference to the scenario above, though the patient willingly wanted to die a doctor does not have any right to take away her life. Health professionals should provide physical, social, spiritual and financial support to this lady. This way, they will help to save more lives. No matter how hopeless the situation might seem, health professionals should always act in line with their call.

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It is the responsibility of the family members to take care of those that are not in a position to care for themselves. They should be committed to provision of basic needs as well as physical support to those that are incapacitated. In this case, lack of family support to a large extent contributed to the lady’s willingness to die.

Care versus Cure

Good care may lead to cure. The difference between cure and care is that cure concentrates on end results but care advocates for an ongoing attention. Thus care is very significant for cure to take place. Family needs to focus their efforts on caring for a sick family member and not the cure; death is a form of cure as it ends the suffering processing but unfortunately it also puts to an end the life of a patient thus it is not the best solution. Curing should not be executed at the expense of caring. Some medical professionals and family members may make the decision to end a patient’s life simply because the disease that the patient has is incurable. This is very wrong because death can never be a cure. Furthermore, ending someone’s life does not in any way demonstrate any aspect of caring.

Ethical Principles

The Principal of autonomy gives a patient right to refuse or choose their treatment. When a well informed patient refuses a treatment because he or she wants to die, then there is nothing much that can be done about it since legally that person has the right to make his or her own choice. The only help that one could offer to such patients is counseling and in this manner a health professional will not be responsible for that patient’s death (Ascension Health, 2011).

Principal of beneficence requires a doctor to act in the best interest of a patient. This principal empowers medical professionals to take the right course of action which is to preserve life. However, attainment of this may not be possible especially when the patient is not willing to cooperate. The doctor should therefore try and make the patient view the whole scenario from the doctor’s view point (Keown, 2002).

The principle of justice requires a doctor to make fair decision on who is to get what treatment. Mostly, people that are financially challenged are not considered in distribution of the available treatment that is scarce. Medical professionals will prefer to give the scarce treatment to those patients that are able to pay for the treatment. This in turn may cause death of disadvantaged patient which is very unethical (UK Clinical Ethics Network, 2001).

The principle of human dignity states that both the patient and the doctor should be treated with dignity. The decision to end someone’s life does not enhance dignity of life at all. The life of any individual should be respected irrespective of whether it is quality life or not (Ascension Health, 2011).

The principle of informed consent requires a doctor to be truthful, honest and allow individuals to make their own decisions. Direct killing and involuntarily denial of treatment that could have saved life is an act against the desires of a patient. This is very wrong since no man has the power to take life away (Ascension Health, 2011).

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The principle of non-maleficence requires doctors to do no harm to patients. Direct killing or denying a patient medication is doing harm and this means that the doctor has violated this principle. Health professionals should therefore avoid anything that will cause more harm to patients (UK Clinical Ethics Network, 2001).

Moral Distress

Moral distress occurs when one knows the right course of action but some constrains hinder that person from taking the right course of action. Healthcare professionals are the most affected by moral distress. This happens in situations where the patient refuses to take prescribed treatment and on the other hand the healthcare professional has a responsibility of treating the patient. Moral distress brings about anxiety, guilt and distress since one may feel that he/she did not do the right thing (Zuzelo, 2007).


It is very unfortunate that the debate on a right to die has shifted in favor of death and not life. Unfavorable circumstances requiring one to choose life or death can happen to anyone of us, it is therefore necessary to take action in interest of those affected to ensure that they live a life worthy living. Health professionals have a responsibility of promoting good health as opposed to taking life away since only God has the right to do so. Doctors need to take more care on issues concerning life and death.


Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. (2006). The “Right to Die” vs. the “Right to Live“. ANKERBERG. Web.

Ascension Health. (2011). Key Ethical Principles. ASCENSIONHEALTH. Web.

Keown, J. (2002). Euthanasia, ethics, and public policy: an argument against. Cambridge: Cambridge University.

UK Clinical Ethics Network. (2001). The Four Principles Approach. Ethics-Network. Web.

Zuzelo, P. (2007). Exploring the Moral Distress of Registered Nurses. Lasalle Schools. Web.

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