The word “euthanasia” draws its roots from Greek meaning “good death.” As it is used in this discussion, it means “the act of ending the life of a person suffering from either a terminal illness, or an incurable disease.” The AMA is against physicians assisting in euthanasia. There is currently only one state in the US that allows for euthanasia, and that is Oregon, where in 1997, the “Death With Dignity Act” went into effect. Euthanasia advocates stress that it should be allowed as an extension of a person’s autonomy. Those who are against euthanasia often say that it can lead to the devaluation of human life, and to a slippery slope in which the old and disabled will be killed on the whims of healthy people. We examined one case and the Oregon law to view the ethics of euthanasia.
A woman was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (the same
disease that Stephen Hawking has) 5 years ago. This is a condition that destroys motor nerves, making control of movement impossible, while the mind is virtually unaffected. People with motor neurone disease normally die within 4 years of diagnosis from suffocation due to the inability of the inspiratory muscles to contract. The woman’s condition has steadily declined. She is not expected to live through the month, and is worried about the pain that she will face in her final hours. She asks her doctor to give her diamorphine for pain if she begins to suffocate or choke. This will lessen her pain, but it will also hasten her death. About a week later, she falls very ill, and is having trouble breathing.
Questions for Case 1:
Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act:
Students were given the two paragraphs that are found on the following web page: http://www.nightingalealliance.org/htmdocs/iss_a_p.htm. We then discussed the following questions pertaining to the Death With Diginity Act.
Death With Dignity Questions:
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