Bioethics Discussion Blog: The Effect of Prolonging Life on the Requests for Euthanasia

REMINDER: I AM POSTING A NEW TOPIC ABOUT ONCE A WEEK OR PERHAPS TWICE A WEEK. HOWEVER, IF YOU DON'T FIND A NEW TOPIC POSTED, THERE ARE AS OF MARCH 2013 OVER 900 TOPIC THREADS TO WHICH YOU CAN READ AND WRITE COMMENTS. I WILL BE AWARE OF EACH COMMENTARY AND MAY COME BACK WITH A REPLY.

TO FIND A TOPIC OF INTEREST TO YOU ON THIS BLOG, SIMPLY TYPE IN THE NAME OR WORDS RELATED TO THE TOPIC IN THE FIELD IN THE LEFT HAND SIDE AT TOP OF THE PAGE AND THEN CLICK ON “SEARCH BLOG”. WITH WELL OVER 900 TOPICS, MOST ABOUT GENERAL OR SPECIFIC ETHICAL ISSUES BUT NOT NECESSARILY RELATED TO ANY SPECIFIC DATE OR EVENT, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO FIND WHAT YOU WANT. IF YOU DON’T PLEASE WRITE TO ME ON THE FEEDBACK THREAD OR BY E-MAIL DoktorMo@aol.com

IMPORTANT REQUEST TO ALL WHO COMMENT ON THIS BLOG: ALL COMMENTERS WHO WISH TO SIGN ON AS ANONYMOUS NEVERTHELESS PLEASE SIGN OFF AT THE END OF YOUR COMMENTS WITH A CONSISTENT PSEUDONYM NAME OR SOME INITIALS TO HELP MAINTAIN CONTINUITY AND NOT REQUIRE RESPONDERS TO LOOK UP THE DATE AND TIME OF THE POSTING TO DEFINE WHICH ANONYMOUS SAID WHAT. Thanks. ..Maurice

FEEDBACK,FEEDBACK,FEEDBACK! WRITE YOUR FEEDBACK ABOUT THIS BLOG, WHAT IS GOOD, POOR AND CONSTRUCTIVE SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT TO THIS FEEDBACK THREAD

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Effect of Prolonging Life on the Requests for Euthanasia

Today’s post is short but it extends the recent discussion on the prolongation of life by technology. A visitor to my now inactive Bioethics Discussion Pages wrote me the following interesting question:
“How will Euthanasia be affected if medicine and
technology makes everyone live longer?”


I wrote him back the following:
… medical and technological prolongation of life does not necessarily mean a life meeting the quality standards set by the individual and doesn't assure a happy life or a life free of suffering.. or does it?
So, therefore, if life is too long or too burdensome, there might be some persons who would desire a "good death" to end that prolonged life.


Does everyone agree with my response? ..Maurice.

7 Comments:

At Tuesday, May 09, 2006 9:06:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

"Does everyone agree with my response?"

Dr. Bernstein, some lives are too burdensome from the very beginning ... and there is no such thing as a life which is assured to be happy or free of suffering. That is part and parcel of the human condition.

I need to ask you something: why do pro-Euthanasia physicians feel it's OK to assist in someone's suicide if they're in physical pain, but not if they're in emotional pain?

In what way is it different?

You're willing to ease someone out of this world - rather than mitigate the pain - if they're dying of cancer, but not if their lives are so unhappy that they want to die for emotional reasons - those people have to go off and do the deed themselves.

Now, please don't misunderstand me ... I'm not an advocate of any assisted suicide, or euthanasia - for any reason.

However, physical pain can sometimes be far easier to endure than emotional agony ... and the emotional agony often can't be mitigated in any way. There's no "happy life" or "quality standards" there, either.

If I understand how this works, you also will not euthanize a terminal patient who happens to be depressed. This makes no sense to me. If they're dying and happy, you can help them suicide ... but if they're dying and have the added agony of depression, they have to tough it out?

In my meager understanding, there seems to be a bit of a logical disconnect there. What am I missing?

 
At Tuesday, May 09, 2006 10:06:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Moof, as I may have noted on other posts, I personally think it is not appropriate for physicians to participate in any physician assisted suicide (PAS) and that the approach should be one of hospice type care if necessary and all the psychologic support possible. PAS is legal only in the state of Oregon in the U.S. Euthanasia, currently is considered active euthanasia (the physician directly self-performing an act which causes a patient who requests euthanasia to die). Euthanasia is illegal in all U.S. states. As I may have noted in previous posts, if society wants patients who request death to be put to a "good" painless death, then society should develop a profession of skilled technicians with the sole duty and societal permission to carry out euthanasia. But they must not be physicians. ..Maurice.

 
At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 2:56:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Yes, I'm sorry Dr. Bernstein. You are, indeed, right. You have metioned that on several occasions. I should have been far more careful in how I arranged my questions.

I didn't mean you personally ... neither did I mean to imply that you or your Ethics colleagues would break the law in this way ... but as I reread my phrasing, I can certainly understand why you took it in that light. Please forgive me.

What I was actually trying to say was that, in these discussions, on your site and on other sites, when Euthanasia is mentioned, everyone is very quick to rule out depression ...

... and I honestly don't understand why that would be, for the above stated reasons.

About physicians administering the Euthanasia, personally, I'm not sure I would ever be able to trust in the profession as I have until now ... however, that said, several physicians have stated that they would be willing to participate if they were allowed.

Do you feel that these pro-Euthanasia physicians who would be willing to participate are in a minority?

 
At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 6:09:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Moof, I am aware of surveys that show that the majority of physicians believe as I do and as the American Medical Associated has stated that physician-assisted suicide is not an acceptable role to be played by physicians. Of the physicians who state the opposite opinion, there are anonymous surveys which indicate that there are some physicians who not only disagree but actually have admitted that they have participated sub rosa in physician-assisted suicide with their own patients. Throughout the history of medical practice and except for anomalies such as the Nazi experience or legal executions, society has never given physicians the duty of being involved in intentional killing. If the role of the physician is changed as it is now in the highly controlled and rare occurance physician-assisted suicide in the state of Oregon, one can worry about a slippery slope progression to more direct and poorly controlled practice of euthanasia as what has been written about in the current Netherlands experience. If this new role of the physician could be extended to apply to other groups beyond the terminally ill or those with "untreatable" suffering who voluntarily request death to those with lesser disabilities, mentally impaired or children who haven't or lack the capacity to make such requests, then I am sure you and most in society would have far less confidence that their physicians have their patient's best interest at heart. ..Maurice.

 
At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 6:26:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Moof, on your other point about the rejection of requests by a depressed patient for physician-assisted suicide, I think it is because how psychiatrists look at depression: depression is always treatable and eventually curable if treatment is allowed to be carried out over a sufficient period of time with use of variety of new meds, at previously untried doses, electro-shock therapy and with the changing of psychiatrists. According to my discussion with out lady psychiatrist blogger, Shrinkette, there is said to be no such thing as terminal or end-stage depression. ..Maurice.

 
At Thursday, May 11, 2006 10:38:00 AM, Blogger Kevin T. Keith said...

The question presupposes a link between length of life and desire for euthanasia at end of life. Certainly life extension will change how we go through our lives, in many unpredictable ways, but I'm not sure it will affect our mindset at the end.

One thing life extension cannot affect is the overall death rate: one per person. Assuming true immortality is out of the question, everyone will still have to die, and to confront the question of how they die. Having a longer life may make us more or less willing to leave life at the end; dying young in a long-lived world may seem that much more bitter. But when death is finally imminent, the question becomes not how long I have lived, or how long I wanted to live, but how I will die given that I must die. And that is the same question we confront today.

I suspect the rate of euthanasia in a long-lived society (i.e., the percentage of people who choose PAS or active euthanasia) will be the same as that rate would have been in the same society with shorter lifespans.

 
At Wednesday, June 28, 2006 5:09:00 PM, Blogger Bob said...

I read once that 75% of medical treatment is given during the last 6 months of life, after which treatment the patient dies. Some people feel that the primary purpose of aggressive medical treatment at such times is aimed primarily or exclusively at emptying the life savings of the patient before death. Maybe the 75% figure is inaccurate, but nobody I've ever talked to denies that there is a lot of wasted medical treatment done on people who will die soon anyway. My relitious and ethical views are that relieving the pain of death are far more important than fleecing the patient, even if his suffereing can be extended for a few more weeks.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home