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Euthanasia: Social Values and Nursing Practice


According to Buiting et al. (2009), voluntary or physician-assisted euthanasia is the act through which an individual’s life is ended upon their request. Licensed physicians perform it and before the administration of a lethal substance; the patients must consent to the act. Moreover, the patient must be terminally ill, and the doctor must confirm that there are no other alternatives for treating the illness. Despite these guidelines, there have been debates regarding its implication in society.

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Impact of voluntary or physician-assisted euthanasia on social values, morals, and norms

Goel (2009) notes that life is valuable, and everyone has a right to enjoy it. Social values recognize the importance of human life, and individuals turn to medicine for quality care when they are terminally ill. About Clark (2013), euthanasia does not seem to value human life as it ends it prematurely. Moreover, the act has been regarded as a form of suicide in countries that have not yet legalized it. Goel (2009) argues that suicide is morally wrong and against human values. Thus, euthanasia seems to destroy the fundamental concept of respecting life. In reference to upholding social values, hospitals are institutions established to promote health among individuals. Clarke (2013) argues that voluntary euthanasia limits the capability of these institutions to uphold the value of life and health in humans. Families play a significant role in safeguarding societal norms and values. Voluntary euthanasia has devastating effects on family members as they are left to cope with the premature deaths of their loved ones (Goel, 2009). Therefore, euthanasia limits the ability of families to promote the survival of society. Despite the negative impacts of voluntary euthanasia on social values, it seems to respect the autonomy of the patients. Autonomy is a critical part of the value systems and characters of individuals and should be respected.

Impact of voluntary or physician-assisted euthanasia on the nursing practice

Euthanasia is a violation of the integrity of the medical field. About Pereira (2011), nurses take oaths to save the lives of their patients at whatever cost. Thus, the act seems to be against their fundamental role of caring for and healing patients. Even though the motives relating to euthanasia are compassionate about ending the patient’s misery, the act interferes with their right to live. According to Holt (2008), euthanasia seems to be in line with the moral codes in medicine. However, the moral codes can only be respected if the patients’ consent to the act and the nurses adhere to ethical codes of conduct. Thus, euthanasia enables nurses to put the interest of the patients before their own and recognize that individual values vary across the population. Clarke (2013) notes that euthanasia is slowly being accepted within the nursing profession and nurses are acknowledging the respect for the patient’s decisions in end-of-life care. Despite this opinion, Goel (2009) recognizes that performing euthanasia is likely to result in emotional distress among the nurses. Nurses in palliative care have personal relationships with the patients and hence are likely to be shattered when they die. The grieving process is more devastating when euthanasia is involved.


Euthanasia has negative implications as it fails to recognize the value of human life. It also has negative effects on families and it leads to distress and devastation. However, it seems to respect autonomy, which is a critical part of human life. On one hand, euthanasia seems to have negative implications on the nursing profession as it results in grief and distress. On the other hand, it ensures that the moral codes of medicine are upheld.


Buiting, H., Delden, J. v., Onwuteaka-Philpsen, B., Rietjens, J., Rurup, M., Gevers, J.,… Maas, P. v. (2009). Reporting of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the Netherlands: descriptive study. BMC Medical Ethics, 10(18), 1-10.

Clarke, L. (2013). Mental health nursing and the debate on assisted dying. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 20(9), 655–661.

Goel, V. (2009). Euthanasia – A dignified end of life! International NGO Journal, 3(12), 224-231.

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Holt, J. (2008). Nurses’ attitudes to euthanasia: the influence of empirical studies and methodological concerns on nursing practice. Nursing Philosophy, 9(5), 257–272.

Pereira, J. (2011). Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls. Biomedical Ethics, 18(2), 38-45.

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