PHI: 200 Mind and Machine
July 23, 2012
Physician-assisted dying and euthanasia are compromising dilemmas between what is forbidden and what should be acceptable when the dying is at the end-of-life cycle. The idea of accelerating death is a topic that generates disharmony for physicians, lawmakers and those involved in the palliative and end-of-life care circumstances. So is it inhumane to force the terminally-ill to suffer while they prefer to hastening death by a physician? According to Susan Wolf’s paper on her father’s death, she is one person would never want to accelerate the causing of death by euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Let me start by stating my personal belief on this subject. I am a proponent of physician-assisted dying and euthanasia and believe that people have a right to a make decision, if capable, to longer go through treatment and end their life peacefully. I stand firm behind my statement assuming that the terminally-ill patient has been presented with every possible option available to them and comes to their own decision to end pain and suffering through assisted dying. So I try to place myself in Susan’s position to see if I would respond in the same manner as her. It is quite the conundrum.
It becomes difficult for me to imagine sitting by a loved one’s bedside watching them suffer every day and not support their conscious choice to end their life. Although death is not difficult for me to grasp, I do not think I could have any part in the facilitation of dying other than respecting their decision. Who is for me to say that a person should take every medical option possible to prolong the inevitable? But with the decision to let people take control of their own life, who will then will take the burden to assist in the process…an answer I do not have.
I feel that Susan lacked accountability in her duty as a designated proxy decision-maker when she realized the health professionals poorly informed her father about maintaining comfort after termination of artificial nutrition and hydration. She made no notion to help him understand what information she was aware of to help him understand his options. She quotes, “convinced now that he had no choice, my father soldiered on” (Wolf, 2008, p. 24). Perhaps it was for selfish reasons or held onto the idea that it seemed like a story with conflicting versions and possible trajectories (Wolf, 2008, p. 24). Perhaps she held on to tight to her ethical beliefs and left it to the professionals to answer for his slow progression in death.
My response to this is that first, I am a strong proponent of ending suffering to all sentient beings. If an incident occurred were information was held from my loved one or presented in an unclear manner, it would be my duty to ensure I bring in additional resources to help communicate options that would cease suffering. Regardless of my personal stance on assisted dying, I feel a stronger sense to collect, research, and bridge any gap of communication that could help someone. Although there could be some missing pieces to this…