Do Suicide Attempters Have a Right Not to Be Stabilized in an Emergency?

Hastings Center Report (forthcoming)
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The standard of care in the United States favors stabilizing any adult who arrives in an emergency department after a failed suicide attempt, even if he appears decisionally capacitated and refuses life-sustaining treatment. I challenge this ubiquitous practice. Emergency clinicians generally have a moral obligation to err on the side of stabilizing even suicide attempters who refuse such interventions. This obligation reflects the fact that it is typically infeasible to determine these patients’ level of decisional capacitation—among other relevant information—in this unique setting. Nevertheless, I argue, stabilizing suicide attempters over their objection sometimes violates a basic yet insufficiently appreciated right of theirs—the right against bodily invasion. In such cases, it is at least prima facie wrong to stabilize a patient who wants to die even if they lack a contrary advance directive or medical order and suffer from no terminal physical illness.



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Aleksy Tarasenko-Struc
Albany Medical College

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References found in this work

Decision making capacity should not be decisive in emergencies.Dieneke Hubbeling - 2014 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 17 (2):229-238.
Respect and Rationality: The Challenge of Attempted Suicide.Ayesha Rachel Bhavsar - 2013 - American Journal of Bioethics: 13 (3):24 - 25.
Non-Consensual Treatment Is (Nearly Always) Morally Impermissible.Mark J. Cherry - 2010 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 38 (4):789-798.

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