It is difficult to conceive of two words more important to human existence than life and death. Certainly all of us know these words intimately, and have a deep understanding of their meaning. Life and death have been principal topics of discussion in political debate and popular dialog for decades. Having a clear understanding of life and death is essential to any discussion on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, end-of-life care, and organ donation. Yet despite the seemingly obvious nature of these words and their clearly obvious importance to our existence, it turns out that life and death are somehow difficult to define. Life and death represent a dyad; their definitions inherently depend on one another. Simply defined, death is the cessation of life. Similarly, life can be defined as not death; however, not everything not alive is dead. Boniolo and Di Fiore explain this dyadic relationship well, and other authors have cited this interdependency to better define life and death.1-6 The academic literature contains multiple definitions for both terms depending on which discipline or interest group attempts the definition. Nair-Collins provides a thorough discourse on this diversity in terms of death, differentiating between “biological death, death of the person, death of the moral agent, death of the moral patient, legal death, and the commonsense notion of death.”2(p.667,668,675) Through the dyadic relationship, similar groupings could be arrived at for defining life. Whether or not one accepts Nair-Collins’ categories, at least some differentiation of this type is necessary given the complexity of these concepts. I propose a simplified categorization of the definitions of life and death: (1)scientific/biological, (2)medic... ... middle of paper ... ... is that it renders organ donation and termination of life support for brain-dead individuals impossible without “killing.” Naturally, this becomes an important factor in determining the legal definitions of life and death. Legal Definitions It is clear at this point that legally defining death is more manageable than defining life. Indeed, death is defined in U.S. Federal law by the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA). This law incorporates both the circulatory-respiratory and the whole-brain death criteria, and remains unchanged today despite much critical analysis.2(p.667), 3(p.40) Life, on the other hand, does not appear to be as clearly legally-defined. In decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a pass on defining the point at which life begins.5(p.16,17) Life, it seems, is still up for interpretation.
The sub-title of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ book describes her audience as doctors, nurses, clergy and the family of dying patients. Because of her target audience the book is written on a more emotional level, citing examples of both positive and negative death experiences. There are no detailed descriptions of what happens to the body as it dies, just discussions of how the dying person might feel and how they might want to experience their last moments of life. Sherwin Nuland takes a much more scientific approach with his book “How We Die”. In chapter seven, Accidents, Suicide and Euthanasia, Nuland describes in great detail the pathophysiology of why a person dies from sepsis and pulmonary infection. His book is targeted more towards the health care professional who is familiar with long drawn out discussions of the pathophysiology of a certain disease process. The choice of target audience by each author correlates to their discussions regarding who controls the death experience. Kübler-Ross argues for patient input and control and so...
The most argued issue with assisted suicide is grounded in morals and religion. The sanctity of life is the philosophy that human life is sacred and should be protected from any form of v...
The definition of euthanasia is simple: "Easy, painless death." But the concept of euthanasia proposed by adherents of the euthanasia movement is complex and has profound consequences for all. Because the subject involves the discipline of medicine (diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, medical ethics and so on) as well as the discipline of law, the general public will have difficulty understanding it without some knowledge of these matters.
Euthanasia is a topic that has not been shy of discussion in the medical profession. McCabe describes euthanasia as a deliberate act in which death is the end result. She further goes on to say that the person admi...
It is becoming more difficult to know what to do in life and death situations. Advancements in medicine, challenges in the court, and changing opinions have raised questions about when life begins, what its value is, and when it ends. In the United States each life is very important and is taken very seriously. That is what distinguishes it from most of the other countries where we can see that there are constant wars going on and innocent people dying every day. If we start terminating people because they are not convenient or it’s expensive demeans that value. Human life is much more than just a cluster of biological cells. (Messerli, 2012)
Death is deeply personal, generally feared, and wholly inescapable, but medical technology now can prolong our biological existence virtually indefinitely, and, with these advances, comes the question of whether we should pursue the extension of life in all cases. Most people would agree that, under certain circumstances, it would be preferable to cease our hold on life. Nearly everyone can agree that there are situations when terminally ill patients have the right to call for a halt to life-extending treatments, and that their physicians will have the moral obligation to comply. What appears to be quite difficult for us as a society to come to terms with is the thought that someone would actively intervene in the "natural" process of the death of another human being. Why is it tolerable, even desirable, to intervene (with decidedly unnatural technology) in the "natural" process of death when it results in extending life, but intolerable and morally abhorrent when we act to speed the patient to his or her unavoidable death?
Micah Issitt and Heather Newton suggested, "In cases where the quality of life cannot be improved, assisted suicide provides a dignified option to avoid suffering” (Issitt and Newton, "Counterpoint: Assisted Suicide Is a Civil Right”). The quality of those patients’ lives should be highly taken into consideration when hearing arguments against allowing patients to choose physician-assisted suicide. Denying assisted suicide to release those who are suffering from terminal illness is unkind, but also, cruel (Grayling, “It Is Compassionate to Permit Assisted Suicide”). By allowing the choice of physician-assisted suicide, patients will have the compassionate option of ending their suffering if they chose to want that option. Grayling pointed out, “It is not mere quantity of life that matters, but its quality; and since dying is a living act, the quality of experience at the end of life is the overriding consideration” (Grayling, “It Is Compassionate to Permit Assisted Suicide”). The idea that the length of one 's length, no matter how painful it may be, is a greater kindness than allowing someone is end his or her own suffering is a cruel mistake (Grayling, “It Is Compassionate to Permit Assisted Suicide”). The quality of one 's life, no matter how shortened, outweighs the quantity of one 's life. The quality of a patient’s life should be a focus when considering the legalization of physician-assisted
"Dying is an integral part of living... the right to die with dignity should be as well protected as is any other aspect of the right to life. State prohibitions that would force a dreadful, painful death on a rational but incapacitated terminally ill patient are an affront to human dignity." In addition to this, choosing the manner of death could be included as an aspect of right to life but interests of the state and society will justify interference with it, as seen in the case of Pretty v UK.
Otherwise, cardiopulmonary death is faulted for its definition of life. It overall is financially improbable and considers those without functioning brains to be alive, consequently minimizing organ transfer. As well, whole brain death is unreasonable for its consideration of the state of unconsciousness to be life. For both cases, the state of comatose is merely a state of life to emotionally support loved ones and financially is a detriment—no benefit to the patient. Convincingly, neocortical brain death considers life to end at the permanent state of unconsciousness. It is unfair to declare life where it is no longer experienced, and as well for the loved one’s memories to be tainted by a state of eternal sleep is taxing. Additionally, the demand for organs is unfathomable, the move toward neocortical brain death would increase the lives saved. Ultimately, the person society cares about ceases to exist when the cerebrum is no longer functioning; ethically it is considerate to declare death at this stage and it is for the betterment of
Some consider it to be on the same continuum as palliative care, but palliative care seeks to neither postpone nor hasten the end of life in terminal patients. Aggressive pain management can eliminate or minimize patient suffering. A tremendous discrepancy can exist as to what constitutes “quality of life.” The quality of life that so many argue in favor of is not always measurable and should not apply to human beings. People are becoming comfortable with the idea that life must have a certain quality to be worth living. A life which would be considered unbearable to some can be considered a wrongful life, often discriminating against disabled persons. Suicide is not reversible. Patients cannot change their minds if conditions change. Illness or disability is not convenient for families or physicians, and certainly not for the patient, but arguing in favor of assisted suicide ignores the patient’s real fears of abandonment, pain, rejection, loneliness, and loss of value. If we allow the quality-of-life argument to permeate all levels of medicine and ethics, we ignore the sanctity of life. Even if one rejects the idea that life is a God-given gift, the intrinsic value of every life can still be argued. With the appropriate euphemisms, any killing can be justified, but this slippery slope, this sliding scale of who lives and who dies, puts all of us in the crosshairs of euthanasia, not just the elderly, the infirm, or the
Life is a developmental process that evolves over time beginning as an infant, growing into a child, and maturing into an adult all of which is a part of evolving. Many people take life for granted as people have a tendency of thinking that the next minute, the next hour, and their tomorrow will be there. People often do not realize they have taken a person or life for granted until a diagnosis or event takes place that is marked as fatal such as death. There continues to be an enormous amount of controversy surrounding what is the definition of death? As a result, in America in 1981, a federal law
Death persists as the great equalizer for all, and every person holds their own right to pass away when they wish. Presently in America, laws protect and grant citizens the right to order when and how they shall die when the circumstances do arise. People can assign now what is called a Do-Not-Resuscitate order (DNR) to exercise their freedom to control their own fate. The DNR order allows each individual his or her inalienable right to control their own fate. In America, all people face the choice of how and when they prefer to pass away, and physicians must respect and grant autonomy to their moribund patients while leaving their own convictions out of the circumstances with respect to the DNR order.
President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research. Defining Death: A Report on the Medical, Legal and Ethical Issues in the Determination of Death. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1981.
When one contemplates the notion of life and death, whether he or she believes in a Creator or not, the miracle in the form of the human body is undeniable. It is challenging to fathom an objective perspective of a person’s dying days, so to speak, as the experience is indeed individualistic. In the particular case of a patient named John, it is imperative to arrive at an ethical judgment regarding his request to have medical assistance in ending his life, due to his terminal illness. As a professional on the medical ethics committee concerning this case, there is a responsibility of venturing to comprehend not only morally acceptable treatments, but also to scrutinize short and long-term impacts of such decisions on the physicians, as well as society at large. Inclusive in this time sensitive process is the Christ-centered worldview that I observe, which is a set of Godly principles that govern every facet of my life.
Death is something that causes fear in many peoples lives. People will typically try to avoid the conversation of death at all cost. The word itself tends to freak people out. The thought of death is far beyond any living person’s grasp. When people that are living think about the concept of death, their minds go to many different places. Death is a thing that causes pain in peoples lives, but can also be a blessing.