Ethical dilemmas in nursing are not rare, and nurses often have to make difficult decisions regarding their patients. Euthanasia, or Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), is a current ethical dilemma in nursing practice, especially in those states where euthanasia has been legalized. This research paper aims to review and critically analyze two recent peer-reviewed scholarly articles related to euthanasia and the relationship of nursing to this moral dilemma.
The article “Nursing and Euthanasia: A Narrative Review of the Nursing Ethics Literature,” written by Pesut et al. (2020), focuses on four aspects of euthanasia: the nature of nursing, ethical principles, concepts, and theories, moral consistency, and the nature of the social good (p. 152). The authors review and synthesize euthanasia-related literature published up to 2018. Most papers were written in the United States from 1995 to 1998, and other articles were published in Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries where euthanasia is either legalized or prohibited.
Most resources do not support MAiD, claiming that it is morally wrong, violates the ontological morality, ignores nurses’ feelings and other people who participate in this process and is unnatural (Pesut et al., 2020). At the same time, many articles argue that euthanasia is the right to die and is justified under an ethic of care. It can bring social good, saving a terminally ill patient from suffering (Pesut et al., 2020). The authors conclude that euthanasia in nursing is a broad and important topic, and it should be further examined within the international context.
Although the article is recent, it reviews literature published in the 1990s-2000s, which means that the information is not always current. However, the authors argue that they found a paucity of literature that addressed euthanasia in the context of nursing practice and was published within the last decade (Pesut et al., 2020, p. 163). For this reason, the information can be considered relevant and current. The writing is unbiased; different opinions are supported with evidence. The authors neither support nor defend euthanasia, thus being objective and neutral.
The strongest point in the article is its analysis of four thematic categories. Pesut et al. (2020) provide a detailed review of each subject from different perspectives. For example, from the nature of nursing, nurses are “in the middle,” which means that they are responsible for patient’s care but have no possibility “to influence decisions about care” (Pesut et al., 2020, p. 158). As a result, MAiD may have negative implications for nurses. From the perspective of biomedical ethics, every person has “the right to die with dignity,” thus euthanasia can be justified (Pesut et al., 2020, p. 159).
The article’s main limitations are that it reviews only English language literature and that most sources were published within the 1990s-2000s. In addition, a lack of literature that addresses euthanasia from the nursing practice perspective is another weakness of the article. The research aimed to the analyze ethical dilemma of MAiD in nursing, but most sources reviewed discuss this issue in the general healthcare context. However, the article can be considered strong and informative and can be used as the starting point for further research on this subject.
The second article, “But It’s Legal, Isn’t It? Law and Ethics in Nursing Practice Related to Medical Assistance in Dying,” was written by Schiller et al. in 2019. The authors begin with the information about the legalization of MAiD in Canada and the role of nurses as MAiD assessors and providers (Schiller et al., 2019, p. 1). The paper aims to discuss the nursing practice implications of euthanasia legalization and demonstrate an interaction between the morality and law regarding this act. Schiller et al. (2019) focus on the legalization process of MAiD in Canada and the role of nurses in this process.
The article is recent, and all the information is current. The writing is unbiased, and the authors support all their arguments with evidence. Schiller et al. (2019) use relevant and credible sources published within the last decade to support their findings. The main strength of the article is that it is primary research. The authors conducted personal interviews with those nurses who had already experienced MAiD after legalization in their medical establishments.
The authors interviewed two Canadian nurses who claimed that different jurisdictions have diverse requirements and policies regarding MAiD-related issues and nurses’ obligations (Schiller et al., 2019, p. 5). In some jurisdictions, nurses could choose not to participate in assisted death without any consequences for their career, while in other institutions, they had to be reassigned to other patients or take the day off without pay (Schiller et al., 2019, p. 5). Most nurses agreed that their opinions had to be considered while legalizing MAiD, but in reality, not all nurse practitioners have enough power to influence any legal decisions.
However, the article’s weakness is the small number of participants, which makes the data subjective. Moreover, the paper focuses only on the Canadian perspective of euthanasia in nursing practice, which is not enough to analyze this issue fully. At the same time, the authors provide credible information about the nurses’ position on euthanasia and encourage the audience to think of the questions of ethics, morality, and law regarding this aspect. To conclude, the article helps nurses think critically about their role in MAiD’s decisions and protect their values and ideals under the existing law.
Pesut, B., Greig, M., Thorne, S., Storch, J., Burgess, M., Tishelman, C., Chambaere, K., & Janke, R. (2020). Nursing and euthanasia: A narrative review of the nursing ethics literature. Nursing Ethics, 27(1), 152-167. Web.
Schiller, C. J., Pesut, B., Roussel, J., & Greig, M. (2019). But it’s legal, isn’t it? Law and ethics in nursing practice related to medical assistance in dying. Nursing Philosophy, 20, 1-11. Web.