Euthanasia and Ethics in Healthcare – Medical Ethics Example

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"Euthanasia and Ethics in Healthcare" is an outstanding example of a paper on medical ethics. The current medical advances have led to the improvement in healthcare provision due to better technology and the availability of medicine. Equally, the issue of ethics in healthcare receives more coverage in the media than ever before. Euthanasia, which is the assisted death of patients to ease their pain, is one of the current ethical issues in the healthcare industry. This paper delves into the nature of euthanasia and ethical principles associated with euthanasia and their shortcomings. Moral Principles Applicable In Euthanasia Moral principles are the values which ought to be adhered to in societies and organizations, especially in the medical and healthcare world.

Euthanasia could be voluntary following the patient’ s request or involuntary (Keown, 2002). Ethical principles among health care practitioners can be influenced by religion, legal frameworks, professional code of conduct and morality. Some of the proposed principles include autonomy, non-maleficence, justice, beneficence among others (Quaghebeur et al, 2009). Principle of Autonomy This principle posits that an individual has the right and freedom to choose what he/ she considers best.

Proponents of euthanasia use this argument to support euthanasia, however; one needs to remember that euthanasia can be voluntary or not.   The choice of whether to accept or refuse medication rests with the patient. Those who argue for the right to die in patients are fond of using the principle of autonomy; the reason being that patients should die with dignity while trying as much as possible to minimize pain. This idea then seems to contradict the long-held view that life is sacred as opposed to simply enhancing the quality of life through euthanasia. The quality of life further supports the idea of autonomy through self-determination.

However, autonomy ignores the value placed on life since patients may decide to end (life) without adhering to norms of the society (Keown, 2002). When patients decide to end their life on the basis that life’ s value has diminished, then the actions of medical practitioners are justifiable in respecting the patient’ s wish. Principle of nonmaleficence The principle suggests that people should try to prevent harm and evil. In the healthcare world, euthanasia can be seen to support the principle of nonmaleficence.

This is on grounds that death reduces pain rather than causing harm to a patient. Since most patients who consider euthanasia are terminally ill, then easing of pain enhances the quality of life; thus, concurring with nonmaleficence. The saving life is a rule observed by medical personnel, but in the contemporary world quality of life overrides this. A related issue to this principle is the double effect. This aims to reduce pain through drugs with the understanding that it might shorten the life. Assisted suicide does not contradict with this principle where the patient requests life termination.

The idea that medical staff members do not aim to harm patients still holds true. Likewise, euthanasia supports double effect; since it aims to stop the agony. Moreover, it should not aggravate pain. Thus, passive euthanasia should only be considered for unconscious patients. Where the patient makes a decision to die himself or through a proxy, then use of less painful methods adheres to the principle of nonmaleficence through the double effect. Also, in support of the double effect is that the aftermath should be robust enough to outweigh the dreadful things condoned. Principle of Beneficence This relates to the idea that medical health practitioner ought to act for the interests of the patient.

The principle agrees with nonmaleficence, but it connotes that no harm ought to be inflicted to the patient while at the same time doing right. When patients die prematurely under any circumstances, the violation of this principle occurs (Scherer & Simon, 1999). An interesting feature of beneficence is the protection of the rights of other people.

In requesting for euthanasia services, the patients should consider the rights of doctors and nurses while at the same time respecting their opinion and religious observances. Thus, euthanasia ought not to harm the lives of medical practitioners. Nevertheless, the argument that a patient’ s best interest seeks to minimize harm raises questions of whether the interest is fulfilled when the patient is dead. The value of life changes dramatically depending on what the patient wants. The termination of life on the basis of providing quality of life is also contradictory. Principle of Justice Justice upholds the long-held view that equity is equality.

Therefore, justice seeks to create fairness in distributing health resources. Biases and prejudice among health professionals can lead to unfair distribution of resources causing injustice. With the issue of euthanasia in the limelight, the society is mandated with ensuring that resource allocation is just to everyone. Hence, all necessities in the provision of euthanasia should be availed. In essence, accessibility should be equal for all patients; in any case, euthanasia may provide opportunities for treatment to other patients leading to efficiency. Even costs should be fairly distributed depending on merit and contribution.

Scarcity of resources may create tensions among medical staff, government agencies and patient. In making decisions on whether to offer medical care, a cost-benefit analysis is essential. Euthanasia may be justified and considered just and equitable, where higher healthcare costs pertain to an individual in much distress and with a terminal disease. With the rise in healthcare costs then the efficient allocation of resources cannot be ignored.   Criticisms of the Four Principles Firstly, the four principles provide a general overview of the ethical principals but ignore other pertinent matters like trust and integrity of the medical professionals.

Arguing for or against euthanasia is, therefore, incomplete. The integration of more ethical values and other approaches should minimize the risk of an incomplete analysis. The principles may not be applicable in all situations when other factors are at play. Additionally, euthanasia is a controversial subject even in the most liberal societies. Consequently, acceptability among the general public is low. The question of justice does not feature much in cases where there is health care insurance coverage.

Legislations may restrict the choice of patients with regards to euthanasia. Thus, the issue of autonomy does not arise in such circumstances. The principles ought to supplement each other while nothing is considered more significant than others. In reality, one principle may conflict with another; under involuntary euthanasia, autonomy is ignored while the relevancy of beneficence and nonmaleficence overrides the patient’ s personal decisions. Conclusion Ethical dilemmas normally occur in the medical profession when dealing with euthanasia. The four mentioned principles provide a guideline on how to deal with ethics. The interests of the patient must be observed by medical practitioners when deciding on how to deal with ethics.

The applicability of the ethics though recognized is not universally accepted. Euthanasia still elicits debate from governments; medical health practitioners, citizens and religious circles. Thus, care should be taken when deciding on euthanasia and corresponding ethical principles.


Keown, J. (2002). Euthanasia, Ethics, and Public Policy: An Argument Against legalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Quaghebeur, T. et al. (2009). Nursing and Euthanasia: A Review of Argument Based Ethics Literature. Nursing Ethics, 16(4) 466-486.

Scherer, J.M. and Simon, R.T. (1999). Euthanasia and the Right to Die: A Comparative View. Maryland: Rowman and littlefield.

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