Importance of Physician Assisted Deaths
My Ethical Position on Physician Assisted Deaths as a Nurse
The Legal Risks for Nurses
The Opposing View
Summary of Arguments in Favor of My Position
Importance of Physician-Assisted Deaths
Careful reflection is needed for physician-assisted deaths and euthanasia as they often always involve complex issues related to the family, the physician and the nursing staff. The critical question is about ethics that a nurse needs to follow when a patient asks for physician-assisted death. Also important are issues related to the personal professional values of the nursing staff. Though made legal in Canada, physician-assisted deaths still involve careful evaluation — both medically and ethically, while deciding to agree to be a part of physician-assisted deaths. While there are several perspectives and often conflicting arguments to physician-assisted deaths, most agree that the issue of ethics is of prime importance while deciding on physician-assisted deaths. This is true for nurses as well as they would be part of the team that would deliver physician-assisted deaths (Downar, Bailey & Kagan, 2014).
In Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a deadline in February of 2015 that ended on February 6, 2016, after the unanimous Carter decision. The court gave all Canadians access to physician-assisted deaths. While it has become a law, the Supreme Court deadline was extended since by four months and now it ends on June 6, 2016.
There is often conflict and tension between morality and laws when it comes to situations that relate to end-of-life scenarios. There is an underlying conflict between some legal theories and moral and ethical perceptions in the case of euthanasia. While a section of the society may be of the opinion that active euthanasia and assisted death are morally and ethically permissible and hence should also be permissible by law, other sections who hold a different moral or ethical value think differently. Such sections are of the view that in terms of creating safe public policies active euthanasia and assisted death should not be legalized in the present time and social context. This is also reflected in the way the issue of active euthanasia and assisted death vary differently in different laws of countries as well as within countries themselves.
The primary argument in favor of physician-assisted deaths is that every individual has an ethical right to live a life with dignity and in the case of terminally ill patients with very little hope of recovery, as is the case of cancer patients, who become dependent on others for a living and hence lose their dignity of life. Other arguments in favor claim that individuals also have ethical rights over a happy life and being terminally ill takes away this ethical right from them and hence they have the ethical right to end their life so that they may get relief from the physical and mental pain and suffering of being terminally ill and not having a life of happiness and that such individuals attain happiness when that pain and suffering is eradicated in case of terminally ill patients, this is only possible through physician-assisted deaths (“Physician-Assisted Death,” 2016).
This, claim proponents of euthanasia, would bring happiness to these individual and hence they support physician-assisted deaths.
My Ethical Position on Physician-Assisted Deaths as a Nurse
Euthanasia has been a topic of debate and dereliction for many years where people, politicians, artists, activists and the medical fraternity who were clearly divided in their opinion about the right to death and right to euthanasia. Often it is observed that society gets deeply divided while discussing the ethicality of euthanasia and physician-assisted deaths.
I am a strong believer that every individual has his or her right to decide how to live his or her life. And this includes their rights to decide whether one wants to continue to live and endure suffering or end the pain and suffering altogether through physician-assisted death. I am of the opinion that individuals should be given the right to end their life after acquiring informed knowledge about the options for treatment and revival. However, I also believe that people should not be allowed to end their lives through physician-assisted death if there is even a small chance of revival through medication of any other form of treatment (Landry, Foreman & Kekewich, 2015).
The proponents of euthanasia argued that it was needed by terminally ill patients and support their claims by ‘the compassion argument’. They claimed that every human being has a right to live with dignity and lead a quality life. If the quality of life was not ensured then an individual could not live with dignity (Lavi, 2007). Thus, they claim terminally ill individuals would not enjoy a quality life ever and thus would not live with dignity. On the other hand, such people should be given the right to ‘die with dignity’ which is kinder to them than forcing them into a life that is riddled with suffering only.
I strongly support the proponents of physician-assisted deaths who claim that the autonomy theory provides strong evidence in favor of euthanasia or physician-assisted death. This ethical theory states that every individual has a right to choose a life and even death for themselves. The arguments in favor of euthanasia and physician-assisted death is also supported by the Kantian moral theory. This theory states the minimum goods that can be guaranteed to any person is his or her personal rights such that they are able to enjoy a good life. This ethical right to autonomy theory grants a terminally ill patient the right to choose his notion of the quality of life that he or she wants to have and consequently decide whether he wants to end life or not through physician-assisted deaths. This theoretical framework says that “dignity is essential for choosing quality; it is the minimum choice from autonomy.” Hence, the individual clearly has the right to choose between life and death depending on the health condition through physician-assisted death (“Physician-Assisted Death,” 2016).
The ethical issues that govern the decision to be a part of euthanasia and physician-assisted death are also supported by aligning the ethical obligation for nurses and health care professionals to “do no harm” and potentially quicken death through respecting patient autonomy through physician-assisted death if the applicant meets the eligibility criteria for physician-assisted death. The nursing staff and all the health care professionals also ethically obliged not to harm patients who have been entrusted to the care of the health professionals. As a nurse, it is important to share this ethical principle of health care and the concept of non-maleficence which requires being considered to be fundamental in deciding about euthanasia.
Physician-assisted death also presents a challenge to the ethical assumptions in many societies that death is essentially a harmful result under all situations. This is often considered to be ethically incorrect especially in the case of any grievous and irremediable health condition. The experiences of the concerned patient require being acknowledged along with objectivity and perceptions. As a nurse, I often come to face with situations where death is not necessarily ethically a more harmful option for the patient. On the contrary, in many conditions, it can be more harmful to the patient if he or she is allowed to continue to live with the grievous and irremediable and can be considered to be more harmful options for the patient and by the patient.
Therefore, I am of the view that under such situations, it is ethically correct to consider a capable and well-reasoned and informed deliberation about physician-assisted death. Therefore, this conforms to the ethical consideration of respecting the autonomy of the patient by honoring the well informed and capable wishes of the individual patient. This also entails the ethical consideration that wishing to die is not necessarily a direct result of incapacity.
Another ethical consideration in favor of euthanasia is to take a decision on the basis of conscientious objection. In this context, a nurse has the ethical right to reject some action related to being a part of euthanasia for the primary reason that the participation would violate a deeply personal and a deeply held ethical or moral value. Ethically nurses have the right to be part of some portions of euthanasia like discussions in care options and providing ongoing management of pain and symptom while conscientiously refraining or declining to be part of others like prescribing and administering physician administered death medications.
In the case of physician-administered death the nursing staff and the health care professionals also require to be ethically right to protect their moral integrity and respect the autonomy of the health care professionals while trying to improve the quality of medical care that helps in promotion of a medical environment that respects the diversity of opinion (Paterson, n.d.).
I am however of the opinion that after a request for physician-assisted death is made it is critical that an informed and collaborative process of decision-making occurs. To allow a patient to…