Essay The Four Principles Of Biomedical Ethics

Essay The Four Principles Of Biomedical Ethics

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Euthanasia should not be accepted as part of the standard way of dying because it not only contradicts the most respected moral principle of ‘thou shalt not kill’, but also good medical practice. The four principles of biomedical ethics can be used as a framework to help guide moral decision-making in difficult situations including euthanasia. Arguments against the moral permissibility of euthanasia which are based on respecting autonomy and non-maleficence outweigh those related to beneficence and justice. In any case of euthanasia, careful evaluation of the interests of the various parties involved is crucial because ethical principles can be contentious at times and their meanings could be interpreted differently from theory to theory (Robison and Reeser, 2002).

Euthanasia, meaning ‘good death’ in Ancient Greek, refers to the deliberate intervention undertaken to bring about the “painless death of a patient with incurable disease” (Darji et al, 2011). Physician-assisted suicide also describes the termination of a very sick person’s life to end their suffering. Together they elicit the most controversy, but in both the fundamental issue is the moral permissibility for an individual to end his own life. Euthanasia can be classified as active and passive. Active euthanasia refers to the deliberate act, usually through administration of lethal drugs, to bring about the death of an individual who is suffering from an incurable condition. Passive euthanasia describes a situation when a doctor withdraws life-sustaining treatment and allows the patient to die (Wilcockson, 2008). The acts of euthanasia can be further categorised into voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary. In voluntary euthanasia, the person makes a competent decis...


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... by the individual doctor’s personal virtues, character traits and preference for moral theories.

Advances in medical science, and societal move towards greater individual autonomy and patient choice will influence the way euthanasia is debated. In the above discussion, key arguments against the moral permissibility of active voluntary euthanasia are elaborated, based predominantly on the principles of respecting autonomy and non-maleficence. The rarity of a truly autonomous choice and the problem of assessing patient’s competence are also highlighted. Most importantly, as the role of a doctor is to help and save lives, euthanasia can undermine the trust and confidence built in a patient-doctor relationship, hence morally impermissible. It should not be discussed until optimal palliative care has been given and the patient’s psychological state properly evaluated.

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