Tag: assisted suicide

Bioethics Blogs

‘Being a burden’: a illegitimate ground for assisted dying

The issue of the legality in England and Wales of physician-assisted suicide has recently been revisited by the Court of Appeal. Judgment is awaited. The judgment of the Court of Appeal, granting permission for judicial review, is here.

The basic issue before the Court of Appeal was the same as that in Nicklinson v Ministry of Justice and R (Purdy) v DPP: does the right to determine how one lives ones private life (protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights)  confer a right to have an assisted death?

Many factors have been said to be relevant to decisions about assisted dying. They include are intractable pain (rather a weak criterion, given modern palliative methods), hopeless prognosis – likely to result in death in a short time, and simple autonomy (‘It’s my right to determine where, when, and in what circumstances I end my life, and that’s an end of the matter’). One factor, commonly in the minds of patients asking for help in ending their lives, but rarely mentioned by advocates of assisted dying, is that the patient feels that she is a burden to her family and carers.

A recent systematic review of the literature concluded that 19-65% of terminally ill patients felt that they were a burden to others.  The 2016 Report relating to the Oregon Death with Dignity Act  concluded that 48.9% of patients whose lives were ended under the Act cited seeking an assisted death cited ‘being a burden’ as one of their concerns.

Concern about being a burden should not be a criterion to which any law relating to assisted dying should be permitted to have regard.

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

Premortem Cryopreservation Does Not Cause Death

In 1990, Thomas K. Donaldson sued the California Attorney General for the right to an elective premortem cryopreservation. Most cryopreservation is postmorterm. But Donaldson wanted to act before a malignant tumor destroyed his brain.

Unfortunately for Donaldson, the Santa Barbara trial court and an appellate court rejected Donaldson’s claims. The courts construed his request as one for assisted suicide. That was a crime in California and the courts found (like state appellate courts everywhere in the USA) that there was no constitutional violation in applying that law to Donaldson’s situation.


But why was the case framed as a right to assisted suicide?  The whole point of cryogenic preservation is that sometime in the future, when a cure for Donaldson’s disease is found, then his body may be “reanimated.” If true, then he would not be brought back from the dead.  Legally, he would have never been dead.  


Since the Uniform Determination of Death Act requires irreversibility, it seems that premortem  cryopreservation does not cause death. Yes. Donaldson’s cardiopulmonary functions and brain functions may cease. But that cessation would not be irreversible. Of course, cryopreservation may not work. But it seems that factual predicate was not carefully examined.  


The case was dramatized in a 1990 episode of LA LAW.


[embedded content]

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

Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision Making

Check out
this new 368-page
book
 from Rabbi Jason Weiner: Jewish Guide to Practical
Medical Decision Making.


Due to rapid advances in the medical field, existing books on Jewish medical
ethics are quickly becoming outdated. 
Jewish
Guide to Practical Medical Decision Making
 seeks to remedy that by
presenting the most contemporary medical information and rabbinic rulings in an
accessible, user-friendly manner. 


Rabbi Weiner addresses a broad range of medical circumstances such as surrogacy
and egg donation, assisted suicide, and end-of-life decision making. Based on
his extensive training and practical familiarity inside a major hospital, Rabbi
Weiner provides clear and concise guidance to facilitate complex
decision-making for the most common medical dilemmas that arise in contemporary
society.


1. Facilitating Shared Decision-Making 

A. Understanding Terminology: Key Concepts to Facilitate
Collaborative Decision-Making

B. Truth-Telling: When Painful Medical Information Should
and Should Not Be Revealed 

C. Mental Illness: Determining Capacity and Proper Treatment
in Accordance with Jewish Law  


2. How Much Treatment? 

A. Risk and Self-Endangerment: Determining the
Appropriateness of Attempting Various Levels of Dangerous Medical Procedures

B. Making Decisions on Behalf of an Incapacitated Patient

C. Pediatrics: Jewish Law and Determining a Child’s Consent
and Treatment 

D. Palliative Care and Hospice in Jewish Law and Thought


3. Prayer  

A. Is Prayer Ever Futile? On the Efficacy of Prayer for
the Terminally Ill 

B. Viduy: Confessional Prayers Prior to Death


4.  At the End of Life

A. Advance Directives and POLST Forms  

B. End-of-Life Decision-Making: DNR, Comfort Measures,
Nutrition/Hydration, and Defining “Terminal” in accordance with Jewish Law

C. Withholding vs. Withdrawing: Deactivating a
Ventilator and Cessation of Dialysis and Cardiac Defibrillators at the End of
Life

D. Case

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

Double Dutch euthanasia evokes sympathy through age and romance

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.
– Romeo & Juliet, Act 5, Scene 3

In a scene reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, a Dutch couple were voluntarily euthanized together after sharing their final kiss. Nic Elderhorst, 91, had a stroke 5 years ago that left him with limited mobility and chronic pain. Trees, 91, his wife and primary caregiver, had declining physical health and was diagnosed with vascular dementia. She feared that she could no longer care for him. Both feared living without the other and had stated for a long time that they had hoped to die together.

Headlines around the world focused on the romance of their euthanasia. “Dying Together was their deepest wish” declared one British paper. Another said “Loving couple, 91, pass away in rare double euthanasia” not only showing the romance, but changing the active process of killing to the metaphor of “passing away.” “Elderly couple got ‘deepest wish’ declared the Washington Post. “Elderly couple kiss, hold hands before double-euthanasia” was published in New Zealand.

The Netherlands is one of the few countries in the world that permits voluntary euthanasia, where a physician administers a drug to fulfill a person’s request to end his/her life. To qualify, a patient must make a considered request, have unbearable and hopeless suffering, be informed about the situation and future possibilities, and have no reasonable alternatives. Thus, a person does need to have a “terminal illness” or “irreversible condition” in order to request and receive life-ending procedures.

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

Review of countries where Euthanasia has been legalised. Increaing of involuntary euthanasia, without consent by patients

Euthanasia a Slippery slope that could end in involuntary euthanasia

Euthanasia was legalised in Belgium in 2002, where is defined as “the intentional termination of a patient’s life by a physician at the patient’s request”, so that only voluntary euthanasia may be legally carried out in Belgium (J Med Ethics 41; 625-629, 2015). However, this legal requirement of voluntarism is not always fulfilled.

Thus, a study conducted in Flanders in 1996 found that 3.3% of cases of euthanasia had occurred without the prior request of the patient. In other words, they were involuntary euthanasias. Another study (also in Flanders) found that there had been 1796 cases of involuntary euthanasias (3.2%). A more recent study from 2007 found that the percentage of involuntary euthanasia was 1.8%, while another in 2013 found 1.7%.

However — and we believe this is important — the percentage of involuntary euthanasia in patients who were 80-years-old or over rose to 52.7%, while in those with diseases other than cancer, this figure reached 67.5%. The decision was not discussed with the patient in 77.9% of cases (J Med Ethics 41; 625-629, 2015).

Canada experience

A Recent statement of Professor Somerville, who spent 40 years living and working in Canada,  has recently returned home to Australia to take up the position of Professor of Bioethics in the School of Medicine at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney where she says claims by Australian pro-euthanasia advocates, including media personality Andrew Denton, that euthanasia and assisted suicide is working safely overseas don’t stand up to basic scrutiny.

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

End-of-Life Healthcare Sessions at ASBH 2017

The 2017 ASBH
conference
 in October 2017 includes over 400 workshops, panels, and
papers in bioethics and the health humanities.  Here are ones that pertain
to end-of-life issues.


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19


THU 1:30 pm:  End-of-Life Care and Decision-Making in the ICU – Limited
English Proficiency as a Predictor of Disparities (Amelia Barwise)


Importance: Navigating choices in predominantly English-speaking care settings
can present practical and ethical challenges for patients with limited English
proficiency (LEP). Decision-making in the ICU is especially difficult and may
be associated with disparities in health care utilization and outcomes in critical
care. 


Objective: To determine if code status, advance directives, decisions to limit
life support, and end-of-life decision-making were different for ICU patients
with LEP compared to English-proficient patients. 


Methods: Retrospective cohort study of adult ICU patients from
5/31/2011-6/1/2014. 779 (2.8%) of our cohort of 27,523 had LEP. 


Results: When adjusted for severity of illness, age, sex, education, and
insurance status, patients with LEP were less likely to change their code
status from full code to do not resuscitate (DNR) during ICU admission (OR,
0.62; 95% CI, 0.46-0.82; p


Conclusion: Patients with LEP had significant differences and disparities in
end-of-life decision-making. Interventions to facilitate informed
decision-making for those with LEP is a crucial component of care for this
group.


THU 1:30 pm:  “But She’ll Die if You Don’t!”: Understanding and
Communicating Risks at the End of Life (Janet Malek)


Clinicians sometimes decline to offer interventions even if their refusal will
result in an earlier death for their patients. For example, a nephrologist may
decide against initiating hemodialysis despite a patient’s rising creatinine
levels if death is expected within weeks even with dialysis.

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

Brain Death Conference in Cuba

The 7th International Symposium on Brain Death will be held in Havana, Cuba, from December 5 to 8, 2017.


Topics include:
•    Conceptual approach to human death
•    BD criteria in different countries
•    Ancillary tests in BD
•    Autonomic nervous system assessment in BD
•    BD in childhood
•    Anencephalic infants
•    End-of-life dilemmas: terminal patient, euthanasia, assisted suicide, 
•    Legal considerations surrounding BD
•    Philosophical, theological, sociological, historical and cultural considerations of human death
•    Organ transplantation

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

More about Charlie Gard

Dr. Robert Truog, the bioethicist and transplant physician who has pushed the envelope on the definition of death, has weighed in on the Charlie Gard case in a “Perspectives” piece that is generally available (i.e., without a subscription) from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).   By all means read it.

Dr. Truog approaches the case from the standpoint of limiting medical research—indeed, that’s in the title of his article.  He says the case is about “the best interest of the patient, financial interest, and scientific validity.”  On the first point, he is cautious about the British courts’ assertions that it can assess how much pain and suffering Charlie is experiencing, and whether the courts know this better than the baby’s patients.  This caution seems wise.  As I have reflected further on this case it strikes me that I may be missing a legal distinction between Britain and the US; frankly, I am not well-versed on British law in these cases.  I do tend to think of the Gard case in terms of substituted decision-making in the case of severe or terminal illness.  My thought process runs through the checkpoints.  First, the patient’s wishes are paramount.  In this case, the patient cannot express wishes and may not be able to form them.  In that case, second, a surrogate decision-maker should speak for the patient using “substituted judgment” or “substituted perspective” to express how the patient might have approached the case if able to express wishes.  Here, the parents are available to speak for the patient. 

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

Medical tourism for controversial treatment options

By Dominic Wilkinson

 

Baby C’s parents had done their research. They had read widely about different options for C and had clear views about what they felt would be best for their child. They had asked a number of doctors in this country, but none were willing to provide the treatment. After contacting some specialists overseas, they had found one expert who agreed. If the family were able to pay for treatment, he was willing to provide that treatment option.

However, when C’s local doctors discovered that the parents planned to leave the country for treatment the doctors embarked on court proceedings and contacted the police.

One of the questions highlighted in the Charlie Gard case has been whether his parents should be free to travel overseas for desired experimental treatment. It has been claimed that the NHS and Great Ormond St are “keeping him captive”. Why shouldn’t C’s parents be free to travel to access a medical treatment option? When, if ever, should a state intervene to prevent medical tourism?

On the face of it, stopping patients or parents from undertaking medical tourism appears to violate two important freedoms – the freedom to travel and the freedom to make decisions about medical treatment. There might be reason for a country not to provide a particular treatment option – for example because it is unaffordable within a public healthcare system, or because doctors in that country do not approve of it, or lack experience or expertise in providing it. But why should patients or parents be prevented from accessing treatment overseas.

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

Charlie Gard, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Limits of “Conscience”

I would venture that most bioethicists would agree it would be ethically permissible to remove life support and active care from little Charlie Gard, and let him die.   The hospital in Britain where he has been receiving his care wants to do that, and the courts agree.  But why do they insist on this action when his parents want to transfer him for another try at experimental treatment, have raised the money, and reportedly have a center in the US willing to accept him for such an attempt?

I can think of two reasons.  One is a frank utilitarian insistence on limiting costs.  It has been publicly charged that is precisely the motive for this and similar recent cases in the U.S.

Or it could be that those caregivers who argue against the futility of such care do so on conscience grounds.  This is at least a more charitable reading.

But if that is the case, then might we not ask:  on what grounds do such conscience concerns mandate blocking the wishes of the baby’s parents—setting aside just how quickly the futility of further care would be evident?  It is commonly argued that practitioners who wish not to provide abortions or participate in assisted suicide retain a professional obligation to refer to someone who will perform the procedure in question.

So why don’t we demand that the British hospital actively refer Charlie’s parents to another facility?  Just wondering…

Maybe the parents in this case are the ones appealing to conscience, but, in the view of the medicolegal authorities, wrongly so. 

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.