Bioethics was born around the issue of death. Technological advances in health care made it possible to sustain biological life beyond the moment when the patient would have died without such intervention. As patients, their families, physicians and clergy were drawn into the end of life decision-making process, it became clear that more intellectual work needed to be done to provide guidance in these situations. Pulling the plug on the ventilator became the focus of intense discussion.
Early concerns for bioethics discussion focused on the definition of death and decision making for end-of-life care which included whether nutrition and hydration are aspects of basic care or aspects of advanced treatment which may be discontinued.
Since the original simple living wills of the late 1960s and early 1970s, other more complex forms of advance directives and health care powers of attorney have been developed to address increasingly complex ethical questions in terms of technological and medical intervention.
Find materials on:
- attitudes of family and health personnel to death and dying
- assisted suicide
Find audiovisuals on death and dying in the Bioethics Research Library collection.