Analysis of Physician Assisted Suicide Debate

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Analysis of the Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Debate This essay leaves no rock unturned in its analysis of the debate involving euthanasia and assisted suicide. Very thorough definitions are given for both concepts - with examples that clarify rather than obscure the reader's understanding. Euthanasia is the intentional causing or hastening of death in a person with a medical condition that is judged to be serious. The patient may either be (a) alert and (b) aware and (c) competent to make their own decisions and (d) able to communicate or the patient may have (a) decreased alertness (due to encephalopathy or coma), (b) diminished awareness (retardation, dementia, vegetative state) and (c) be incompetent to make their own decisions or (d) be unable to communicate due to aphasia, or inability to speak. Euthanasia is voluntary, when an alert, aware, competent patient agrees to it being performed, and euthanasia is involuntary when it is performed on a patient without the patient's clear understanding and agreement. Euthanasia may be an obvious, clear-cut act acknowledged as such by both the medical staff and patient or may be an action or series of actions that are put forward as being "standard" medical treatment. An example of a clear act is when a patient is given a lethal intravenous dose of potassium or insulin or an oral fatal dose of sedatives. However, a patient may be given gradually escalating doses of morphine or other narcotics for sedation or analgesia, in the knowledge that the morphine will hasten death. If the drug is being used primarily to treat severe pain not responsive to other analgesics, in a painful terminal condition, (such as advanced widespread cancer), it may ... ... middle of paper ... ...addition, the use of strong narcotics which was once restricted to pain management, is becoming accepted for a range of indications such as anxiety, shortness of breath and to suppress feelings of hunger when feeding is withdrawn. In this way palliative care is quickly becoming a euphemism for euthanasia. WORKS CITED: 1.The Multi-Society Task force on PVS. Medical aspects of the persistent vegetative state. N Engl J Med 1994; 330:1499-508. 2. Andrews K, Murphy L, Munday R, Littlewood C. Misdiagnosis of the vegetative state: retrospective study in a rehabilitation unit. Brit Med J 1996; 313:13-16. 3. Childs NL, Mercer WN. Brief report: late improvement in consciousness after post-traumatic vegetative state. N Engl J Med 1996;334:24-25. (report of a 16 year old patient with PVS who recovered significantly after 17 months).
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