This sample essay on Bioethics Essay provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
Another concern that arises in permitting euthanasia is the incompatibility of the physicians “fundamental moral” and “professional commitment” to heal people and to protect their life (Pence, 1998, p. 56). Common euthanasia practice by physicians would also lead to distrust between patient and physician, because patients would have to fear that a treatment was intended to kill them not to cure.
The control of high health care costs lead to a pressured budget, which could use euthanasia as an alternative option to sufficient treatment and care (Keown, 1996).
However, surveys showed that many people from different societies all over the world would welcome the legalisation of active voluntary euthanasia. A survey in Australia showed that ca. three quarters of Australians would welcome voluntary euthanasia and that people from a church background had more supporters for euthanasia than opponents (South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society, 2004).
There are as many reasons to legalise euthanasia as there are for keeping it prohibited. Mercy is one of the strongest arguments for euthanasia.
A person should be allowed to be released from suffering and pain if there is no hope for cure but only death. Another good consequence of legalising euthanasia would be the possibility to respect personal autonomy and self-determination of patients that request euthanasia (Kerridge, Lowe and McPhee, 1998). The right to “die with dignity” is a major argument for euthanasia.
Many people are afraid of their last days, and this does not count for only terminally ill people but also for every other person. For example, people are frightened of becoming old and loosing their continence or not being able to feed themselves.
These facts do not need to arise from a terminal illness; a healthy old person can loose those abilities as well. For some people, this would be a loss of dignity and they may choose to be euthanased (Pence, 1998). Other people may want their families to remember them as they were in the “good” days. As the reader discovered, there are many pros and contras related to euthanasia. Community viewpoints can differ greatly, depending on the beliefs of the community members. In Australia, major groups of opponents are Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.
Their religious beliefs and concerns about discrimination and distrust in medical care play a key role in rejecting euthanasia (Kerridge, Lowe and McPhee, 1998). Many disabled people are against the legalisation of euthanasia. This could have its roots in former Nazi Germany, where thousands of disabled people were involuntary euthanased because they were considered “not worth living” (Keown, 1996). However, the majority of a liberal community would welcome the legalisation of active voluntary euthanasia, because personal autonomy and self-determination are of great importance for these groups.
In a community, where paternalism rules, people would do what they expected to do and what is “good”. Those communities are mainly strong religious or traditional groups (Charlesworth, 1993). The fact is that active voluntary euthanasia is illegal in Australia, though the Northern Territory legalised it under “The Rights for the Terminally Ill Act 1995” and was the first jurisdiction worldwide. However, the Act was revoked by the federal parliament in march 1997. The only countries that legally provide euthanasia today are the Netherlands and Belgium (Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society, 2004).
At the very beginning of this essay, the reader was introduced to passive voluntary euthanasia, another form of bringing about death, although it is different from the legal and ethical view. Passive voluntary euthanasia refers to withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, which leads to a hastened death of the patient at his or her request. The patient with a terminal illness is allowed to die. As discussed earlier, this form of euthanasia is seen by many people as morally tolerable. Australian Law tolerates passive voluntary euthanasia under certain circumstances (Kerridge, Lowe and McPhee, 1998).
A common-law right exists that enables all patients of legal capacity to refuse medical treatment and therefore gives the ability of requesting withholds or withdrawals of life-sustaining treatment that can hasten death. Certain criteria must be met to participate in such an act. The Northern Territories “Natural Death Act 1988” is such a law, where terminally ill patients that meet the requirements of the act, can refuse treatment and therefore the prolongation of their life (Staunton and Chiarella, 2003). The patient that meets all the criteria has full personal autonomy and no one can interfere in his or her decision.
Surveys all over the world showed that many people, including health professionals, think positively of euthanasia and they would like to see changes in the government legislature that legalise euthanasia (Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society, 2004). This result leads to an emerging ethical role of the nurse. More and more patients are aware of the meanings of euthanasia and that there are other ways to achieve death, such as “double effect” (Kerridge, Lowe and McPhee, 1998). The nurse will be more and more involved in the decision-making and has to make moral decisions herself.
A nurse needs to remember that, even if a patient is very sick and in severe pain without hope of cure, begging to die, there is nothing she can do, but reassure him or her and to give comfort. It is also important for a nurse to act as outlined in the four major ethical principles, which are autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence and justice. Non-maleficence emphasizes the principle of “above all, do no harm”. This has to be considered and remembered when terminally ill patients beg for mercy. Beneficence refers to “above all, do good” (Staunton and Chiarella, 2003).
This principle can be controversial, especially in relation to a terminally ill patient. Nurses from a particular cultural background could experience great difficulties in “allowing a patient to die” and withholding treatment, because their beliefs are against death. Furthermore, personal relationships, thoughts and certain attitudes can play an important role in moral decision-making for the nurse. However, The Australian Nursing Council’s Code of ethics includes the four ethical principles and a nurse should act in moral decision-making under this code (Staunton and Chiarella, 2003).
Issues of euthanasia are very controversial and confusing. Hopefully the reader was able to penetrate the fog of confusion and gain some understanding of the issues accompanying euthanasia. The rights of the patients and autonomy in a liberal society have been outlined and need to be considered frequently, because of their enormous importance in professional health care. Pros and contras have also been discussed. However, every person is unique and has their own value of life; therefore, every person might think differently about the issues related to euthanasia.
The ability to think differently is another form of autonomy that one can exercise in a liberal society like Australia.
Bibliography: Charlsworth, M. (1993) Autonomy and the liberal ideal: Bioethics in a liberal society, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne Hawley, R. , King, J. & Weller, B. F. (2003) Australian Nurses’Dictionary, 3rd edn. Bailliere Tindall, Sydney Keown, J. (1996) Euthanasia Examined, Cambridge University Press, Great Britain Kerridge, I, Lowe, M & McPhee, J. (1998) Euthanasia: Ethics and law for health professions, Social Science Press, Australia Pence, G. E. (1998) Classic works in medical ethics, McGraw Hill, Boston.
British Medical Association (1993) Medical Ethics today: Its practice and philosophy, British Medical Association, Plymouth South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society (2004) http://www. saves. asn. au/ (Online, accessed 20. 05. 2004) Staunton P. & Chiarella, M. (2003) Nursing and the Law, 5th edn. Churchill Livingston, Sydney The Hon. Prime Minister Mr John Howard (1997) Sir Robert Menzies Memorial lecture: Australia in the world, University of London