Questions about the morality of euthanasia date back to ancient times. The topic of ending one’s life to alleviate suffering during a serious illness remains acute. There are two types of euthanasia, active and passive. In active euthanasia, the person declares his wish to end his life by some method if he believes it is no longer possible to help him. Passive euthanasia is the cessation of providing the body with artificial life support methods when, for example, the patient is brain dead and can no longer be called alive. Another option is to decide not to undergo an operation that will prolong the patient’s life for a very short period. Often the decision to passively euthanize is made by physicians, which adds even more fuel to the controversy surrounding this phenomenon in medical practice. It can be seen in the case discussed in this research paper, where the author described the main ethical and medical problems.
Mr. Martinez’s case is morally challenging for the staff treating him. On the one hand, there was an order from the patient and his family not to transfer the patient to the ICU, but certain inaccuracies in the treatment process may have caused the problems related to the performance of his respiratory system. The older man was admitted to the hospital with complaints of an upper respiratory tract infection with obstructive lung disease. He is automatically at risk for possible complications and it hurts his quality of life. But the patient decided, in case his condition worsened, to refuse supportive therapy and pass away. The wife also supported her husband’s decision not to prolong maintenance therapy in case of complications.
All the facts mentioned above-put doctors in a precarious position because the patient’s life depends on their decision. Many opponents of euthanasia argue that every attempt should be made to keep a patient alive (Harris, 2001). In this case, it is important that the patient is a human regardless of gender, the severity of illness, and age and that they have the right to be cured. Another moral issue is whether a person has a right to die (Team, 2016). The right to life is enshrined in national and international legal documents. As for the human right to die, this concept contradicts the idea of the value of human life. It can encourage sick people to refuse to fight for life and diminish the medical profession’s importance.
To make an ethically sound and well-informed decision, hospital staff must consider several important factors. As noted above, the doctor should properly analyze Mr. Martinez’s chances of recovery. Since other vital organs, such as the brain, are functioning clinically stable, there is a corridor of opportunity for a positive exit. The patient is also not experiencing the excruciating pain associated with the disease. These factors indicate that compromise may be the ethically correct solution (Harris, 2001). The therapist will permit the transfer to the ICU, but on the condition that Mr. Martinez, due to his decision, may be disconnected from life support in the absence of any improvement after a certain period.
The consequence of the decision in this particular situation being made by physicians based more on the clinical justification for passive euthanasia can be a conflict with the patient’s family members. In this case, it is very helpful for hospital staff to prepare arguments about the ethics and etiquette of their choice. If the patient, while unconscious and suffering from lung disease, had a chance of recovery, it may be an argument for Mr. Martinez’s wife that the doctor’s choice was fully justified. Even if it did not coincide with the patient’s requests, euthanasia was not performed or performed with a significant time delay. If the issue is the financial cost of resuscitation, which the Martinez family cannot cover, it is worth considering health insurance for such complex cases. Because the issues surrounding euthanasia are highly controversial, correct legal and medical evidence must be present to decide to end a life.
Harris, N. (2001). The Euthanasia Debate. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps, 147(3), pp. 367–370.
Team, C. (2016). “Euthanasia – Arguments in Favour and Against”. Clear Ias.