Current Ethics in Medicine: Physician-Assisted Suicide – Medical Ethics Example

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"Current Ethics in Medicine: Physician-Assisted Suicide" is a great example of a paper on medical ethics. The article is a comprehensive account of current medical concern that draws varying opinions in regards to its ethical aspect. This article talks about Physician-assisted Suicide, also described in the article as Physician-assisted Dying. One of the most sensitive issues in the healthcare industry today is the legalization of Physician-assisted suicide. This is not to be confused with euthanasia in that Physician-assisted suicide involves a lot of stages before it can be carried out. There are significant points that have been brought up in the article including the following: (1) what are the legal implications of making Physician-assisted suicide available as an option for patients who are going through physical suffering to end their lives?

(2) what are the ethical concerns involved especially if the physicians pose subtle or in direct opposition to Physician-assisted suicide? (3) what considerations should a physician take in discussing Physician-assisted Suicide to patients? (4) how to preclude the potential of the patient feeling being abandoned or hopeless in the process of discussing Physician-assisted Suicide?

Nevertheless, the article emphasizes the importance of highlighting the ethical importance of any medical procedure pertaining to ending suffering and the like. The article asserts that while in some jurisdictions, physicians are allowed by law to introduce Physician-assisted dying as an option to end suffering, the most important approach is “ listening to patients and exploring issues empathically” which are deemed to be more important skills. The authors elaborates that the model of Informed Consent goes beyond simply letting the patient know about his or her options on how to end suffering; it actually includes an integrated approach to the situation, that is, by personally discussing the deepest concerns of the patient, any signs of suicidal tendencies, psychosocial needs, and spiritual counseling among others. Looking at the issue at face value, I find it really disturbing both ethically and morally.

I recognize the pain that is involved in suffering from an interminable disease and I believe that patients deserve to feel better at least even before they die. But the greater concern here is how it would not be the best action to take.

Consider this: it has been stated in the article that the reason behind patients having tendencies towards suicide or euthanasia or any other procedure of ending their lives due to suffering goes beyond “ pain, fatigue, or dyspnea” (Tulsky et al. , 2000); other more significant factors include “ fears of dependency or being a burden, feelings of abandonment, frightening psychiatric symptoms, hopelessness and spiritual crisis” (Tulsky et al. , 2000). In other words, there might be no need for physician-assisted suicide to be introduced as an option to end suffering because there are certainly deeper reasons why patients want to end their lives, and that is not physical pain or suffering; it is more of psychosocial, emotional or even spiritual in nature.

So, instead of addressing the physical side more, I think it is better to address the emotional side more substantially because it is where the inclinations for suicide are cropping up or rooted from. Also, there are other options like cessation from taking food and water and palliative care, which is far less risky and there are fewer ethical and moral concerns involved.

As you know, the ethical concern is drawn from the fact that if physician-assisted suicide is legalized, it means that the patients now hold the right to know all the options available for them in order to uphold the notion of Informed Consent, which is legally described as knowing the risks, hazards, possibilities, positives, and negatives of their options. Hence, it would also mean that you are offering the person the option to kill himself. That I think is the ethical problem here: physician-assisted suicide is leaning more towards easing the physical pain notwithstanding the psychosocial and emotional aspect of the patient as well as the family.

There are many reasons why it introducing this option to the patient is problematic: (1) it makes the person feel that there is no other way; that he or she cannot die the natural way, and that involves a lot of emotional dilemma on the part of the patient and of the family members, and even to the physician himself who is yet ambivalent on his stance over the method; (2) if the physician does not know how to empathically explore the deepest concerns of the patient, then it will only make the situation worse as the patient would have the feelings of abandonment; (3) the ethical and moral issues encompassing these kinds of the procedure is still very present in today yet relatively conservative culture: the religious view of the family, of the patient and of the doctor will surely be a factor: there are families who are certainly not in favor of this kind of practice referring certain Biblical principles that only God can take a person’ s life.

The good thing is that the physicians have the ability to control the decision of the patient: if there are alternative ways that do not resort to deliberately ending life by any means, the physician I believe has the power to persuade the patient to instead take a morally and ethically positive side, that is, instead of considering physician-assisted suicide, it is better to mitigate the physical suffering and simply die naturally. After all, it is the physical pain that we are dealing with here.    

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