Tag: active euthanasia

Bioethics Blogs

The Neuroethics Blog Series on Black Mirror: Be Right Back

By Somnath Das
Somnath Das recently graduated from Emory University where he majored in Neuroscience and Chemistry. He will be attending medical school at Thomas Jefferson University starting in the Fall of 2017. The son of two Indian immigrants, he developed an interest in healthcare after observing how his extended family sought help from India’s healthcare system to seek relief from chronic illnesses. Somnath’s interest in medicine currently focuses on understanding the social construction of health and healthcare delivery. Studying Neuroethics has allowed him to combine his love for neuroscience, his interest in medicine, and his wish to help others into a multidisciplinary, rewarding practice of scholarship which to this day enriches how he views both developing neurotechnologies and the world around him. 
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Humans in the 21st century have an intimate relationship with technology. Much of our lives are spent being informed and entertained by screens. Technological advancements in science and medicine have helped and healed in ways we previously couldn’t dream of. But what unanticipated consequences may be lurking behind our rapid expansion into new technological territory? This question is continually being explored in the British sci-fi TV series Black Mirror, which provides a glimpse into the not-so-distant future and warns us to be mindful of how we treat our technology and how it can affect us in return. This piece is part of a series of posts that will discuss ethical issues surrounding neuro-technologies featured in the show and will compare how similar technologies are impacting us in the real world. 

*SPOILER ALERT* – The following contains plot spoilers for the Netflix television series Black Mirror

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

A medical, legal and ethical approach of paediatric euthanasia in Belgium

We believe it interesting to refer to an article published in JAMA (311, 1963-1964) last May, which discussed various aspects of paediatric euthanasia en Belgium.

On 13 February 2014, the Belgian Parliament approved an amendment to the Act regulating euthanasia in Belgium, in order to legalise euthanasia in children with serious illnesses. The amendment in question, supported by the majority of Belgians and recently signed into law by King Philippe, will allow euthanasia in children who are permanently in severe pain. As in all cases of euthanasia, parental consent will be required, and it will exclude children with intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses and must be approved by a multidisciplinary medical team, who will carefully assess the mental capacity of these children.

The approval of this law marks the culmination of the gradual acceptance of euthanasia in Belgium. To date, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg are the only countries in the European Union in which euthanasia is legal.

Euthanasia for adults has been legal in Belgium since May 2002, unlike paediatric euthanasia. A preliminary study examining the opinion of physicians on child euthanasia showed that 69% were in favour of legalising it.

In March 2005, recognising that euthanasia in children was rising, without the due legal protection, doctors from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands published practice guidelines for euthanasia in severely disabled newborns. This document is in favour of the legalisation of active euthanasia in children “with a hopeless prognosis who experience […] unbearable suffering”. The protocol specifies that terminating the life of these children may be acceptable if four requirements are met: a) the presence of hopeless and unbearable suffering; b) the consent of both parents; c) consultation with physicians; and d) that the procedure for terminating the life of these children be in accordance with medical standards.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Secondary Intentions in Euthanasia, written by Isabel Canfield

This essay received an Honourable Mention in the Undergraduate Category of the Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics 2017

Written by University of Oxford student, Isabel Canfield

The debate about the moral permissibility of euthanasia is often presented as hinging upon the distinction between killing and letting die. This debate is often focused around a discussion of intention. This paper will attempt to answer the question, is there an additional level of intention, that has not been considered in the current debate on the moral permissibility of euthanasia, that should be considered?

It will be helpful to begin by outlining some of the terms that I will use throughout this paper. To this end, “euthanasia” is the act of killing someone else with the intention of avoiding the harm of living a continued life that is worse than death.[1 2] The distinction between active and passive euthanasia is complicated and at times not entirely clear. Typically, and for the purposes of this paper, active euthanasia is defined as an act that requires the agent who brings about death to do so purposefully. This purposeful action can be the completion of some task or tasks to accomplish this specific end. Meanwhile, passive euthanasia comes about when the agent who brings about death, if an agent can be said to bring about death at all in these cases, does so by purposefully not acting to continue to sustain the life of the person who dies.[3]

Any distinction in intention between active and passive euthanasia, supporters of active euthanasia argue, has been artificially created.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

The Future of Bioethics: Organ Transplantation, Genetic Testing, and Euthanasia

By Ana Lita

When you think of bioethics, some of the first hot-button topics you may consider are organ transplantation, fertility and genetic engineering, and end-of-life-care. The Global Bioethics Initiative serves as a platform to address many bioethical questions and engages in public debates to develop resolutions to present and emerging issues.

Dr. Ana Lita, founder of the Global Bioethics Initiative, discusses the various areas GBI addresses and highlights the organization’s contributors in their prospective fields. She acknowledges the valuable contribution of the current president of GBI, Dr. Bruce Gelb, in the field of organ transplantation. She also addresses the original co-founder of GBI, Dr. Charles Debrovner, and his lifelong passion in the field of fertility and genetic engineering. Lastly, Dr. Lita offers a brief insight into the future of Bioethics in these uncertain times.

ORGAN MARKETS AND THE ETHICS OF TRANSPLANTATION 

Recent developments in immunosuppressive drugs and improved surgical techniques have now made it much easier to successfully transplant organs from one human body to another. Unfortunately, these developments have led to the rise of black-markets in human organs. This underground market is where people who need kidneys to survive or to improve the quality of their lives, for example, purchasing such organs from impoverished persons in the developing world. In January 2017, scientists announced that they successfully created the first human-pig hybrid and a pig embryo with some human characteristics. Given the increasing need for transplant organs, should such markets be regulated and legalized?  Could the success of therapeutic cloning eliminate the need to consider this option?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Finland set to debate euthanasia

A citizen’s initiative to raise the issue of euthanasia in the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) has passed the requisite 50,000 signatories required to trigger a parliamentary debate.

As in many countries, Finland has been dicing with euthanasia for some years now. The pro-euthanasia lobby, Exitus has been active since the early 1990s. As in many countries, the notional public support for euthanasia is above the two-thirds mark. Support amongst the nations doctors has also been steadily increasing in recent years with support and oppose numbers in the medical profession both at 46% in 2014.

As with all Finnish Citizen’s Initiatives, the ‘Euthanasia initiative on behalf of a good death’ includes a prescription of the form of the Bill to be debated. The presented model is for euthanasia for people experiencing an ‘incurable fatal disease, and death takes place in the near future’. The registered signatories now exceed 62000 which should ensure that, after exclusion checks, that a formal bill is developed and that the parliament is compelled to move to a vote.

The sponsor for the initiative is former Finnish MP, Esko Olavi Seppänen. Seppänen, a member of the Left Alliance Party and earlier the Finnish Communist Party, he was also a Member of the European Parliament from 1996 to 2009 as a Member of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL).

The Finnish Medical Association remains opposed to the initiative. Association head Heikki Palve said that the majority of palliative care doctors working with dying patients object to legalising euthanasia. A 2010 survey of doctors attitudes found that, in their opinion, more training on palliative care would diminish requests for active euthanasia and improve physicians’ skills in dealing with the difficult challenges faced in end-of-life situations and care.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Active euthanasia also opposed by United States physicians

In a recent survey carried out among the members of the American Medical Association, it was found that only 15% of those surveyed were in favour of active euthanasia (use of drugs to bring about death of the patient); in other words, 85% of American doctors are against it. When the answers were grouped by the religion practiced by each of its members, it was found that 100% of Catholic physicians are opposed to active euthanasia. This percentage is lower among Protestants and Jews, while for those who do not identify as religious, the percentage of those who support euthanasia is 38% (JAMA 315; 310, 2016).

Read British Medical Association (BMA) opinion HERE

Photo: http://www.livemint.com/

La entrada Active euthanasia also opposed by United States physicians aparece primero en Observatorio de Bioética, UCV.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Worldview Matters at the End of Life

Writing this reflection on Easter Sunday, I’m reminded of the powerful influence one’s worldview exerts on end-of-life decision-making. In my considered judgment, voluntary active euthanasia (VAE) and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) are out of sync with the Christian worldview that maintains that God made human beings in his image; that believes that God the Father was co-sufferer with Christ the Son on the cross, and even… // Read More »

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

How Slippery the Slope?

Proponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and voluntary active euthanasia (VAE) tend to dismiss slippery slope arguments against their position as needless and unnecessary alarms. Ongoing events and discussions in Canada, however, suggest that the slope of assisted dying may indeed be slippery and the alarms justified.

In February 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada found that the existing ban on physician-assisted dying (PAD) violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court initially gave the federal/provincial/territorial governments one year to pass new legislation, but later extended the deadline. As a result, PAD will be legal in Canada by June 6, 2016. Currently, the various levels of government are hammering out the details of the regulatory framework for assisted dying with the assistance of an advisory panel on PAD. Though the June deadline is still months away and the work of the advisory panel is not yet complete, some of the panel’s recommendations that are coming to light are troubling.

First, the panel maintains that “physician-assisted dying” (PAD) should encompass both PAS (the physician prescribes a lethal medication) and VAE (the physician injects a lethal medication) and should be publicly funded. The panel sees no ethically/medically significant difference between the two acts and recommends that both be permissible. Thus, Canada, from the beginning, would join the ranks of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg in legalizing VAE. In contrast, PAS is legal in six states in the U.S. but VAE is still illegal in all fifty states.

Second, eligibility for PAD should be based on “competence” rather than “age,” theoretically removing age limits altogether.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Does Bioethics Tell Us What to Do?

by J.S. Blumenthal-Barby, Ph.D.

 Applied ethicists—including bioethicists—are in the business of making normative claims. Unlike, say, claims in meta-ethics, these are meant to guide action. Yet, when one examines the literature and discourse in applied ethics, there are three common barriers to these claims being action-guiding. First, they often lack precision and accuracy when examined under the lens of deontic logic. Second, even when accurately articulated in deontic language, they often fall into the category of claims about “permissibility,” a category that yields low utility with respect to action guidance. Third, they are often spectrum based rather than binary normative claims, which also yield low utility with respect to action guidance.

First, consider the concern about lack of precision under the lens of deontic logic. Deontic logic is a branch of logic that is concerned with the meaning of certain normative terms such as “permissible” (permitted), “impermissible” (forbidden, prohibited), “obligatory” (duty, required), “omissible” (non-obligatory), or “optional” (even “supererogatory”—beyond the call of duty). The traditional schema is as follows:

  • Something is permissible if and only if its negation is not obligatory.
  • Something is impermissible if and only if its negation is obligatory.
  • Something is omissible if and only if it is not obligatory.
  • Something is optional if and only if neither it nor its negation is obligatory.
  • Something is obligatory if and only if it is necessary for all normative demands to be met.

Yet, often claims made in the applied ethics literature do not map directly onto these deontic terms. For example, commonly used terms are “ethically acceptable,” “ethically problematic,” “ethically admirable,” “ethically justifiable,” “has a duty,” etc.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Oh, Those Darned Terms!

In a recent post Jon Holmlund cited Thomas B. Edsall’s op-ed in the New York Times, “The Republican Conception of Conception.” Edsall was referring to the concept that life begins at conception. It is his hope that Republicans either stake a consistent position regarding the morality of post-conception “contraception” and incur the disfavor of the electorate, or abandon their “moral purity” in favor of “pragmatism” and agree that post-conceptional interventions are acceptable.

Edsall’s states it thus:

By this logic, a presidential candidate seeking to live up to the standards set by Sedlak and others in the anti-abortion community must then agree that the IUD and morning after pill cause abortions.

The problem is that Edsall challenges GOP candidates to take an informed and consistent position, while depending on the electorate not to. His strategy relies on manipulative use of terms to produce the opposite of clarity in moral reasoning. First, he speaks of medical interventions described as “contraceptives” that act in ways beyond merely preventing conception. But he does not give them the label “abortifacient” (the proper term for an IUD should be “contraceptive-abortifacient”); the term is simply omitted. That is the best way, of course, to ensure that users of devices such as the IUD are unaware that it may act after creation of an embryonic being.

Such a position is facilitated by ACOG’s definition of pregnancy as beginning at implantation, which Edsall also hangs his hat on. This is a willful dodge. “Pregnancy” refers to the state of the woman. To claim that pregnancy doesn’t begin until implantation fails to refute the notion that an embryonic human being is in existence before then.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.