Terminally ill patients in 10 states plus Washington, D.C. have the right to take prescribed medications to end their lives (medical aid in dying). But otherwise-eligible patients with neuromuscular disabilities (ALS and other illnesses) are excluded if they are physically unable to “self-administer” the medications without assistance. This exclusion is incompatible with disability rights laws that mandate assistance to provide equal access to health care. This contradiction between aid-in-dying laws and disability rights laws can force patients and clinicians into violating (...) one or the other, potentially creating an underclass of patients denied medical care that is available to those with other (less physically disabling) terminal illnesses. The immediacy of this issue is demonstrated by a lawsuit in Federal court filed in August 2021, requesting assistance in self-administration for terminally ill patients with neuromuscular diseases. This paper discusses the background of this conflict, the ethical issues at the heart of the dilemma, and recommends potential remedies. (shrink)
Under other circumstances, I would have written an academic paper rehearsing the arguments for and against legalization of physician-assisted suicide: autonomy and the avoidance of pain and suffering on the pro side, the wrongness of killing, the integrity of the medical profession, and the risk of abuse, the “slippery slope,” on the con side. I’ve always supported the pro side. What this paper is, however, is a highly personal account of the challenges to my thinking about right-to-die issues. In November (...) 2008, my husband suffered a C2/C3 spinal cord injury in a bicycle collision, leaving him ventilator-dependent, almost completely paralyzed, and in the hospital—but fully alert and profoundly self-reflective. What if he wanted to die? This paper draws from two multimedia presentations—file:///Users/margaretbattin/Documents/BROOKE’S%20ACCIDENT/The%20Salt%20Lake%20Tribune %20%7C%20Multimedia:%20Metamorphosis.webarchive and file:///Users/margaretbattin/Documents/BROOKE’S%20ACCIDENT/The%20Salt%20Lake%20Tribune%20%7C%20Multi media:%20Learning%20to%20live%20again.webarchive—and personal material concerning quality of life (he’d rank at the bottom on the SF-36 and similar scales) and concerning autonomy (his own accounts, verbatim). This is a detailed portrait of a man whose life involves extraordinary suffering but also luminous experience some of the time. It only makes the question harder: What if he wanted to die? (shrink)
Continuous sedation until death (CSD), the act of reducing or removing the consciousness of an incurably ill patient until death, often provokes medical-ethical discussions in the opinion sections of medical and nursing journals. A content analysis of opinion pieces in medical and nursing literature was conducted to examine how clinicians define and describe CSD, and how they justify this practice morally. Most publications were written by physicians and published in palliative or general medicine journals. Terminal Sedation and Palliative Sedation are (...) the most frequently used terms to describe CSD. Seventeen definitions with varying content were identified. CSD was found to be morally justified in 73 % of the publications using justifications such as Last Resort, Doctrine of Double Effect, Sanctity of Life, Autonomy, and Proportionality. The debate over CSD in the opinion sections of medical and nursing journals lacks uniform terms and definitions, and is profoundly marked by ‘charged language’, aiming at realizing agreement in attitude towards CSD. Not all of the moral justifications found are equally straightforward. To enable a more effective debate, the terms, definitions and justifications for CSD need to be further clarified. (shrink)
If you developed Alzheimer disease, would you want to go all the way to the end of what might be a decade‐long course? Some would; some wouldn't. Options open to those who choose to die sooner are often inadequate. Do‐not‐resuscitate orders and advance directives depend on others' cooperation. Preemptive suicide may mean giving up years of life one would count as good. Do‐it‐yourself methods can fail. What we now ask of family and clinicians caring for persons with dementia, and of (...) patients given no better option than to go on with lives they may not want, is unacceptable. To explore how one might better control one's own dying and avoid burdening others with overwhelming care and morally painful choices, we propose a thought experiment: an advance directive implant that would enable persons with early dementia, while competent, to arrange their own deaths without the subsequent intervention of anyone else. (shrink)
Is suicide wrong, profoundly morally wrong? Almost always wrong, but excusable in a few cases? Sometimes morally permissible? Imprudent, but not wrong? Is it sick, a matter of mental illness? Is it a private matter or a largely social one? Could it sometimes be right, or a "noble duty," or even a fundamental human right? Whether it is called "suicide" or not, what role may a person play in the end of his or her own life? This collection of primary (...) sources--the principal texts of ethical interest from major writers in western and nonwestern cultures, from the principal religious traditions, and from oral cultures where observer reports of traditional practices are available, spanning Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Oceania, the Arctic, and North and South America--facilitates exploration of many controversial practical issues: physician-assisted suicide or aid-in-dying; suicide in social or political protest; self-sacrifice and martyrdom; suicides of honor or loyalty; religious and ritual practices that lead to death, including sati or widow-burning, hara-kiri, and sallekhana, or fasting unto death; and suicide bombings, kamikaze missions, jihad, and other tactical and military suicides. This collection has no interest in taking sides in controversies about the ethics of suicide; rather, rather, it serves to expand the character of these debates, by showing them to be multi-dimensional, a complex and vital part of human ethical thought. (shrink)
Background Medical aid in dying (MAID) is legal in a number of countries, including some states in the U.S. While MAID is only permitted for terminal illnesses in the U.S., some other countries allow it for persons with psychiatric illness. Psychiatric MAID, however, raises unique ethical concerns, especially related to its effects on mental illness stigma and on how persons with psychiatric illnesses would come to feel about treatment and suicide. To explore those concerns, we conducted several focus groups with (...) persons with lived experience of mental illness.Methods We conducted three video-conference-based focus groups involving adults residing in the U.S. who reported a prior diagnosis of any psychiatric illness. Only participants who reported thinking that MAID for terminal illness was morally acceptable were included. Focus group participants were asked to respond to a series of four questions. Groups were facilitated by a coordinator who was independent of the research team.Results A total of 22 persons participated in the focus groups. The majority of participants had depression and anxiety disorders; no participants had psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Many participants strongly favored permitting psychiatric MAID, generally on the basis of respect for autonomy, its effects on stigma, and the severe suffering caused by mental illness. Others expressed concerns, typically related to difficulties in ensuring decision-making capacity and to the risk that MAID would be used in lieu of suicide.Conclusions Persons with a history of psychiatric illness, as a group, have a diverse array of views about the permissibility of psychiatric MAID, reflecting nuanced consideration of how it relates to the public perception of mental illness, stigma, autonomy, and suicide risk. (shrink)
In the last several years, philosophical enthusiasm for applied professional ethics has spread from medicine to law, education, government, engineering, business, and to other professional and semiprofessional fields. Each involves an institutional structure within which professional practitioners provide specific services to those who seek them, and within which practitioner behavior in providing these services is regulated by both formal and informal institutional codes and conventions. Recent work in applied ethics has forced reinspection of these codes and conventions and of the (...) moral features of the professional practices they govern—from client confidentiality to the exchange of fees—and has revealed characteristic dilemmas and conflicts which are endemic to these areas of professional activity. Indeed, in some cases—for instance, in the de-paternalization of medicine—the inquiries of applied professional ethicists have begun to produce quite striking changes in professional practice itself. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: The Malthusian Warning “Population Control” and its Critics “Leveling Off”: The Demographic Transition The Ethics of Population Programs Optimal Population Size: Fewer with More, or More with Less? A Thought‐Experiment About a Solution to the Population Problem References.