Journal of Medical Humanities and Bioethics 9 (2):135-142 (1988)
This paper examines the reactions of physicians and other health-professionals when they become involved in decisions about the death of their patients. The way people understand the condition of death has a profound influence on attitudes towards death and dying issues. Four traditional views of death are explored. The problem that physicians have in helping patients die (be it by hastening death through pain control, assisting patients in suicide or by more active means) is analyzed. Physicians, in dealing with such patients, must be mindful of their own, and their patients beliefs as well as mindful of the community in which such dying takes place. They must try to reconcile these often divergent views but can neither paternalistically deny patients their rational will, hide themselves behind an appeal to the law or go against their own deeply held moral views. When such views cannot be reconciled, compassionate transfer to a more compatible physician may be necessary
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