The phenomenon of euthanasia and its application in the medical sphere is a vital debate topic addressed by numerous scholars worldwide. Currently, the positive aspects of euthanasia implementation have become the focus of multiple studies, questioning whether this method could be a prominent option for terminally ill patients with no chance of improvement (Goligher et al., 2017). The highlighted benefits of euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) have also been shown to overcome potential complications, further increasing the viability of this practice. In this regard, medical euthanasia should be approved to benefit terminally ill individuals experiencing considerable pain, becoming a credible resolution to avoid further complications.
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Defining Authorized Ending of Life
Ending an individual’s life is an ethically and morally sophisticated task that requires substantial discussion and consideration. In the contemporary environment, most of the world’s governments have prohibited such practices, aiming to preserve the value of human life and follow ethical rules of medical conduct. Only a few nations have officially permitted these procedures, recognizing the need to assist patients tormented by gruesome afflictions (Emanuel et al., 2016). As such, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium consider euthanasia as an ethically legal option for terminally ill individuals.
However, an extensive evaluation of the euthanasia or PAS practices and their applicability requires determining the primary terms used. Currently, several options are considered euthanasia-related practices, namely medical euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (Emanuel et al., 2016). After that, the subtypes of voluntary, involuntary, and non-voluntary active euthanasia, as well as physician-assisted suicide or death, have been suggested to explain the differences between professional involvement in ending a life (Emanuel et al., 2016). The primary distinction arises between euthanasia and PAS, where during euthanasia, the patient is administered a dose of the required medicine, and in PAS is only delivered necessary drugs, performing the medicine uptake independently.
Legalizing Voluntary Euthanasia as an Aid against Suffering
Terminally ill patients with no prospect of improvement are primary subjects for voluntary medical euthanasia or PAS. The final stages of such incurable disorders as cancer and dementia promote the emergence of numerous symptoms that drastically decrease the individuals’ well-being, manifesting in extreme pain, lack of movement, and therapy inefficiency (Miller et al., 2019). Alternatively, the legalized practice of voluntary euthanasia allows avoiding future complications.
When no prospect of improvement becomes evident, and available approaches to alleviating the suffering are exhausted, implementing euthanasia prevents subsequent distress (Banović et al., 2017). In this regard, when performed according to the client’s request, euthanasia and PAS maintain the individual’s current quality of life, ensuring that no further trauma can be induced by the disease.
A significant detail regarding the application of euthanasia-related practices concerns the ethical perspective on this issue. The medical code of ethics states that the goal of the medical professional is to improve the welfare of the treated individual. A physician is demanded to sustain the principles of non-maleficence, beneficence, autonomy, and justice utilizing the best available course of action to enhance the patients’ condition (Finlay, 2020).
Non-maleficence is a crucial requirement necessitating that no harm is inflicted upon the individual during treatment. After that, beneficence entails that the clinician is compelled to adopt an approach that will promote the well-being of a treated individual (Finlay, 2020). Therefore, an ethical conflict arises: while the physician might prolong the person’s suffering by denying euthanasia, on the other hand, this act results in the individual’s death, which directly contradicts beneficence.
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The most prominent resolution to the violation of non-maleficence required by euthanasia or PAS involves the consideration of potential outcomes that might manifest over time. Scholars who investigate the ethnical complications related to euthanasia, namely Banović (2017), Goligher (2017), and Miller (2019), claim that when no prospect for recovery is evident and severe physical and psychological distress is present, resorting to maintaining life contradicts non-maleficence by inflicting further harm on the patient. Furthermore, if the affliction is incurable, “death becomes the inevitable outcome, and therefore, we cannot seek the cause of death in the medical treatment, but in the natural reasons” (Banović et al., 2017, p. 176). From this perspective, the physician does not voluntarily induce the patient’s death and is morally not responsible for this outcome. Therefore, the contradiction between non-maleficence and beneficence is resolved, allowing to apply euthanasia to alleviate further physical and psychological injury.
Another crucial concern to be discussed regards the elements of autonomy and justice, the inherent rights of any patient. Decision-making regarding the course of treatment always remains the privilege of the treated individual, who is allowed to accept or deny therapy, as well as choose the time and method of their death (Goligher et al., 2017). From the standpoints of autonomy and justice, euthanasia and PAS promote independent decisions and preserve the understanding of suffering, acknowledging a person’s inherent rights. In contrast, prolonged death methods fail to account for these requirements.
Non-Voluntary Euthanasia: Complications Related to Mental Capacity
The patient’s capability to make an informed decision to end their life is crucial for the application of euthanasia in cases of mental disorders. Numerous psychiatric conditions, such as dementia, schizophrenia, and severe bipolar disorder, prevent the individuals from exhibiting autonomous choices due to mental incompetence, comatose states, and lack of environmental awareness, hindering the exertion of free will (Emanuel et al., 2016). However, such patients frequently continue to suffer from excruciating pains, remaining unable to cover their basic needs. In such instances, although extreme physical and mental distress is evident, determining the ethicality of euthanasia can be a strenuous issue.
Nonetheless, the medical professionals responsible for examining the patients still argue that euthanasia is more beneficial than a prolonged death. Several authors report that in such complicated cases as incurable psychiatric disorders, when individuals are no longer aware of themselves and their surroundings, euthanasia is the only viable strategy (Emanuel et al., 2016; Miller et al., 2019; Finlay, 2020). Although determining one’s intentions through the veil of psychological incapacity is a challenging task, avoiding the possibility of alleviating mental suffering is considered highly maleficent, meaning that resorting to the prolonged death strategy is unethical.
The Psychological Impact of Prolonged Death and Insights from Medical Personnel
The negative impact of lethal conditions can be extremely diverse, varying from physical to mental effects. The emergence of depressive disorders and psychological issues related to the lack of improvement and the expectation of death is an element of prolonged death treatment that is impossible to avoid (Cheung et al., 2017). From this perspective, negating the use of euthanasia practices leads not only to the development of further physical complications but also contributes to the deterioration of their emotional state. Terminal patients often develop depressive tendencies that further decrease their welfare, making the option of prolonged death highly maleficent and increasing the validity of euthanasia and PAS.
Another vital detail to be considered concerns the insights from clinical personnel that tend to the dying individuals. As such, the majority of nurses working with terminally ill clients agree that clinical assistance can tremendously benefit not only the patients themselves but also their relatives and the staff involved (Francke et al., 2016). The process of prolonged an extensively complicated phenomenon that influences numerous people, from the patients themselves to their caretakers and medical attendants. Therefore, observing consistent suffering has a tremendous impact on the family members and affiliated workers, whose psychological well-being substantially decreases during interaction with terminal patients (Nielsen et al., 2017). This finding is a crucial element of the discussion, suggesting that euthanasia and PAS benefit multiple individuals rather than only the dying client.
Opposing Views on Assisted Death
Several notable counterarguments to the discussed methods should also be noted. A significant concern raised by the opponents of euthanasia and PAS is related to the adverse outcomes of utilized lethal medicine, namely extended time of death, seizures, and awakening from a coma (Sulmasy et al., 2016). In this regard, both euthanasia and PAS are considered unreliable practices that cannot guarantee painless and quick death, meaning that patients will still suffer from severe complications. However, the occurrence of such issues, although highly undesirable, is generally improbable according to the relevant statistics (Emanuel et al., 2016). Only a small percentage of patients have been reported to manifest these complications, with the overall probability of successful implementation being overwhelmingly positive.
Another credible argument refers to the harmful effects following the performance euthanasia or PAS by a medical professional, who is compelled to violate the principles of ethical clinical conduct. The toll of breaching the medical code and inflicting death is a tremendous problem that originates remarkable emotional distress (Sulmasy et al., 2016). Nevertheless, both theoretical and practical studies confirm resolving this controversial ethical issue by referring to the benefit of the patients, whose autonomy and beneficence are to be maintained (Miller et al., 2019). Furthermore, scholars report that prolonged death has worse repercussions for the involved medical personnel (Nielsen et al., 2017). Therefore, considering that the majority of clinicians support the utilization of euthanasia and PAS, the highlighted contradictions and inflicted burden do not interfere with the implementation of these practices.
To conclude, the application of euthanasia and PAS in the cases involving terminal patients has been discussed in detail in this paper, arguing that it is highly beneficial to implement these practices in such scenarios. It is evident that the phenomenon of medically inflicted death is a highly controversial ethical issue that contains numerous repercussions for the patients, their families, and the attending medical workers. Although the principle of non-maleficence is impossible to sustain if euthanasia or PAS are used, the remaining elements of beneficence and autonomy can only be supported by the utilization of these activities. Altogether, medical euthanasia and PAS should be legalized to aid terminally ill patients with no prospect of improvement.
To present my argument, I used source material from scholarly articles in the section discussing the psychological impact of prolonged death to describe how prolonged death can become the origin of depressive tendencies. I believe this approach dramatically enhances my essay as it explains the dangers of a prolonged death, highlighting its consequences. Furthermore, it outlines how euthanasia and PAS can be beneficial against this threat.
From my perspective, the feedback regarding my paper structure and argumentation would be highly beneficial for my revision, as I am still unsure whether the logical flow is perfectly smooth throughout the entire paper. After that, I am still uncertain whether the section regarding the definitions of the terms should be expanded. Although it could significantly improve the readers’ understanding of the main distinctions, it could also reduce the word limit for developing my arguments.
Banović, B., Turanjanin, V., & Miloradović, A. (2017). An ethical review of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 46(2), 173–179.
Cheung, G., Douwes, G., & Sundram, F. (2017). Late-life suicide in terminal cancer: A rational act or underdiagnosed depression? Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 54(6), 835–842. Web.
Emanuel, E. J., Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B. D., Urwin, J. W., & Cohen, J. (2016). Attitudes and practices of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the United States, Canada, and Europe. JAMA, 316(1), 79–90. Web.
Finlay, I. G. (2020). Ethical principles in end-of-life care. Medicine, 48(1), 61–63. Web.
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Francke, A. L., Albers, G., Bilsen, J., de Veer, A. J. E., & Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B. D. (2016). Nursing staff and euthanasia in the Netherlands. A nation-wide survey on attitudes and involvement in decision making and the performance of euthanasia. Patient Education and Counseling, 99(5), 783–789. Web.
Goligher, E. C., Ely, E. W., Sulmasy, D. P., Bakker, J., Raphael, J., Volandes, A. E., Patel, B. M., Payne, K., Hosie, A., Churchill, L., White, D. B., & Downar, J. (2017). Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in the ICU: A dialogue on core ethical issues. Critical Care Medicine, 45(2), 149–155. Web.
Miller, D. G., Dresser, R., & Kim, S. Y. H. (2019). Advance euthanasia directives: A controversial case and its ethical implications. Journal of Medical Ethics, 45(2), 84–89. Web.
Nielsen, M. K., Neergaard, M. A., Jensen, A. B., Vedsted, P., Bro, F., & Guldin, M.-B. (2017). Predictors of complicated grief and depression in bereaved caregivers: A Nationwide prospective cohort study. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 53(3), 540–550. Web.
Sulmasy, D. P., Travaline, J. M., Mitchell, L. A., & Ely, E. W. (2016). Non-faith-based arguments against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. The Linacre Quarterly, 83(3), 246–257. Web.