In my opinion, Ms. Robaczynski killed Mr. Gessner and committed a moral offense when she discontinued his treatment. Omitting or not starting treatment can be viewed as murder in some cases. I believe that this is such a case since Mr. Gessner was wholly dependent on his treatment. Moreover, healthcare professionals should never presume when to stop treatment if the patient or the patient’s agent did not agree to it. In Mr. Gessner’s case, neither he nor his caretaker refused the support of the respirator, which means that Ms. Robaczynski disregarded the patient’s consent. The President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research also claims that there is no difference between the moral offenses of failing to commence treatment and knowingly stopping it (Fry, Veatch, Taylor & Taylor, 2010). Thus, an omission of life-prolonging treatment is something hard to distinguish from an active killing.
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I would have viewed Ms. Robaczynski’s actions differently if Mr. Gessner had asked to be disconnected from the respirator of his volition. Patients and their agents have the right to curtail a treatment when they feel the necessity to do so. As a result, Mr. Gessner or his agent has the right to stop his life-prolonging treatment by asking the respirator to be disconnected. If Mr. Gessner had refused his treatment, Ms. Robaczynski’s decision to disconnect the respirator would have been understandable. In the reverse situation, the circumstances point to Ms. Robaczynski’s resolve to discontinue the treatment without the patient’s consent. Only Mr. Gessner’s caretaker would have been able to make such a decision if Mr. Gessner was comatose at the time. However, even the caretaker did not have the right to end Mr. Gessner’s life.
Fry, S. T., Veatch, R. M., Taylor, C., & Taylor, C. R. (2010). Case studies in nursing ethics. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.