Expanding the Use of Continuous Sedation Until Death: Moving Beyond the Last Resort for the Terminally Ill

Journal of Clinical Ethics 26 (2):121-131 (2015)
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As currently practiced, the use of continuous sedation until death (CSD) is controlled by clinicians in a way that may deny patients a key choice in controlling their dying process. Ethical guidelines from the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pain Medicine describe CSD as a “last resort,” and a position statement from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine describe it as “an intervention reserved for extreme situations.” Accordingly, patients must progress to unremitting pain and suffering and reach a last-resort stage before the option to pursue CSD is considered. Alternatively, we present and defend a new guideline in which decisionally capable, terminally ill patients who have a life expectancy of less than six months may request CSD before being subjected to the refractory suffering of a treatment of “last resort.”



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Joseph DeMarco
Cleveland State University

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