From the ethical perspective, prolonging the life of a patient in the vegetative state can be justified as it glorifies the sacredness of life. By maintaining the life of a severely ill person, healthcare professionals refuse to make the decision that is not theirs to make. Further, prolonging life might be fair toward the family and friends of the maintained patient, as they value him or her and have hopes that the patient will survive. Building on the previous argument, extending life for a person in the vegetative state gives the said person a chance and more time to recover, if it is ever to happen.
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On the contrary, opponents of such forced longevity reason that sometimes, nature has to take its course, and healthcare professionals need to let what is inevitable happen. Besides, maintaining one person whose situation is completely helpless drains the hospital’s resources that could be used to help other patients (Pessini, 2016). Technology should serve a person’s interests and not vice versa: just because a hospital has advanced equipment, it does not mean that it should be used at all times. Human reasoning should still trump technology, and healthcare workers should appeal to medical ethics when choosing the appropriate course of action.
Kon et al. (2016) write that the decisions about prolonging or ending a patient’s life should not be made in a rush. His colleagues and he propose a seven-step approach to decision-making. They are of the opinion that situations should be handled on the case-to-case basis, and doctors need to assess whether a patient has chances to survive. Treatment should be given if a person suffers or in great pain.
Kon, A. A., Shepard, E. K., Sederstrom, N. O., Swoboda, S. M., Marshall, M. F., Birriel, B., & Rincon, F. (2016). Defining futile and potentially inappropriate interventions: A policy statement from the Society of Critical Care Medicine Ethics Committee. Critical Care Medicine, 44(9), 1769-1774.
Pessini, L. (2016). Life and death in the ICU: Ethics on the razor’s edge. Revista Bioética, 24(1), 54-63.