Under other circumstances, I would have written an academic paper rehearsing the arguments for and against legalization of physician-assisted suicide: autonomy and the avoidance of pain and suffering on the pro side, the wrongness of killing, the integrity of the medical profession, and the risk of abuse, the “slippery slope,” on the con side. I’ve always supported the pro side. What this paper is, however, is a highly personal account of the challenges to my thinking about right-to-die issues. In November (...) 2008, my husband suffered a C2/C3 spinal cord injury in a bicycle collision, leaving him ventilator-dependent, almost completely paralyzed, and in the hospital—but fully alert and profoundly self-reflective. What if he wanted to die? This paper draws from two multimedia presentations—file:///Users/margaretbattin/Documents/BROOKE’S%20ACCIDENT/The%20Salt%20Lake%20Tribune %20%7C%20Multimedia:%20Metamorphosis.webarchive and file:///Users/margaretbattin/Documents/BROOKE’S%20ACCIDENT/The%20Salt%20Lake%20Tribune%20%7C%20Multi media:%20Learning%20to%20live%20again.webarchive—and personal material concerning quality of life (he’d rank at the bottom on the SF-36 and similar scales) and concerning autonomy (his own accounts, verbatim). This is a detailed portrait of a man whose life involves extraordinary suffering but also luminous experience some of the time. It only makes the question harder: What if he wanted to die? (shrink)
Continuous sedation until death (CSD), the act of reducing or removing the consciousness of an incurably ill patient until death, often provokes medical-ethical discussions in the opinion sections of medical and nursing journals. A content analysis of opinion pieces in medical and nursing literature was conducted to examine how clinicians define and describe CSD, and how they justify this practice morally. Most publications were written by physicians and published in palliative or general medicine journals. Terminal Sedation and Palliative Sedation are (...) the most frequently used terms to describe CSD. Seventeen definitions with varying content were identified. CSD was found to be morally justified in 73 % of the publications using justifications such as Last Resort, Doctrine of Double Effect, Sanctity of Life, Autonomy, and Proportionality. The debate over CSD in the opinion sections of medical and nursing journals lacks uniform terms and definitions, and is profoundly marked by ‘charged language’, aiming at realizing agreement in attitude towards CSD. Not all of the moral justifications found are equally straightforward. To enable a more effective debate, the terms, definitions and justifications for CSD need to be further clarified. (shrink)
This paper examines the characteristics of infectious diseases that raise special medical and social ethical issues, and explores ways of integrating both current bioethical and classical public health ethics concerns. Many of the ethical issues raised by infectious diseases are related to these diseases' powerful ability to engender fear in individuals and panic in populations. We address the association of some infectious diseases with high morbidity and mortality rates, the sense that infectious diseases are caused by invasion or attack on (...) humans by foreign micro-organisms, the acute onset and rapid course of many infectious diseases, and, in particular, the communicability of infectious diseases. The individual fear and community panic associated with infectious diseases often leads to rapid, emotionally driven decision making about public health policies needed to protect the community that may be in conflict with current bioethical principles regarding the care of individual patients. The discussion includes recent examples where dialogue between public health practitioners and medical-ethicists has helped resolve ethical issues that require us to consider the infected patient as both a victim with individual needs and rights and as a potential vector of disease that is of concern to the community. (shrink)
Syndromic surveillance uses new ways of gathering data to identify possible disease outbreaks. Because syndromic surveillance can be implemented to detect patterns before diseases are even identified, it poses novel problems for informed consent, patient privacy and confidentiality, and risks of stigmatization. This paper analyzes these ethical issues from the viewpoint of the patient as victim and vector. It concludes by pointing out that the new International Health Regulations fail to take full account of the ethical challenges raised by syndromic (...) surveillance. (shrink)
Because medicine can preserve and restore health and function, it has been widely acknowledged as a basic good that a just society should provide its members. Yet there is wide disagreement over the scope of what is to be provided, to whom, how, when and why. In this uniquely comprehensive book some of the best-known philosophers, doctors, lawyers, political scientists, and economists writing on the subject discuss the concerns and deepen our understanding of the theoretical and practical issues that run (...) through the contemporary debate. The first section lays a broad theoretical basis for understanding the subject of justice, particularly as it relates to the distribution of health care. The second section critically examines how medical care is distributed in different countries around the world and the particular advantages and injustices associated with those systems. The third section draws attention to the special needs of different social groups and the specific issues of justice that are raised by the impact of various policies on health care distribution. The concluding section delves into the dilemmas that confront those designing health care systems - the politics, the priorities, and the place of desires as opposed to needs in a socially just scheme. (shrink)
This compact and innovative book tackles one of the central issues in drug policy: the lack of a coherent conceptual structure for thinking about drugs. Drugs generally fall into one of seven categories: prescription, over the counter, alternative medicine, common-use drugs like alcohol, tobacco and caffeine; religious-use, sports enhancement; and of course illegal street drugs like cocaine and marijuana. Our thinking and policies varies wildly from one to the other, with inconsistencies that derive more from cultural and social values than (...) from medical or scientific facts. Penalties exist for steroid use, while herbal remedies or cold medication are legal. Native Americans may legally use peyote, but others may not. Penalties may vary for using different forms of the same drug, such as crack vs. powder cocaine. Herbal remedies are unregulated by the FDA; but medical marijuana is illegal in most states. -/- Battin and her contributors lay a foundation for a wiser drug policy by promoting consistency and coherency in the discussion of drug issues and by encouraging a unique dialogue across disciplines. The contributors are an interdisciplinary group of scholars mostly based at the University of Utah, and include a pharmacologist, a psychiatrist, a toxicologist, a trial court judge, a law professor, an attorney, a diatary specialist, a physician, a health expert on substance abuse, and Battin herself who is a philosopher. They consider questions like the historical development of current policy and the rationales for it; scientific views on how drugs actually cause harm; how to define the key notions of harm and addiction; and ways in which drug policy can be made more consistent. They conclude with an examination of the implications of a consistent policy for various disciplines and society generally. -/- The book is written accessibly with little need for expert knowledge, and will appeal to a diverse audience of philosophers, bioethicists, clinicians, policy makers, law enforcement, legal scholars and practitioners, social workers, and general readers, as well as to students in areas like pharmacy, medicine, law, nursing, sociology, social work, psychology, and bioethics. (shrink)
Three medical ethicists take varied and often opposing stands on the ethical, social, and political issues that arise when religious and medical practices conflict. The interchange focuses on the tensions between the belief systems, institutional practices, and health-related decisions of Christian Scientists and those of a secularized medically oriented, broader society.
Where assistance in suicide is readily available to those dying of AIDS, as in the west coast gay communities of the United States and in the Netherlands, we must examine the different roles of physicians and friends (including lovers, spouses, family members, religious advisors, members of support groups, and intimate others) in helping a person with AIDS decide about and carry out suicide. This paper makes a central assumption: that where assistance in suicide is available, it is the moral obligation (...) of others to protect and enhance as much as possible the rationality of that choice. Four components are identified in a rational choice about suicide in AIDS – whether it is a choice for or against suicide. Phrased as questions a person with AIDS might ask him- or herself, they are: (1) "Is suicide an option I want to consider?" (2) "Shall I hold out for the chance of a cure?" (3) "How shall I time my suicide?" (4) "What weight shall I give to the welfare and interests of others?" Although physicians often make assertions relevant to (1), they are appropriately involved only in (3); and although friends or intimate partners often provide the patient with anecdotal information relevant to (3), they should be involved primarily in (1). In short, both physicians and friends often intervene in the wrong parts of choices made by a person with AIDS about suicide. Keywords: AIDS, assisted suicide, euthanasia, rationality, role of friends and physicians, timing CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Despite its virtues, lay decision-making in medicine shares with professional decision-making a disturbing common feature, reflected both in formal policies prohibiting high-risk research and in informal policies favoring treatment decisions made when a crisis or change of status occurs, often late in a downhill course. By discouraging patient decision-making but requiring dedication to the patient's interests by those who make decisions on the patient's behalf, such practices tend to preclude altruistic choice on the part of the patient. This eclipse is (...) to be regretted not just because widescale altruism has the capacity to provide important social goods and correct injustices in distribution, but for intrinsic reasons as well. It is argued that preserving the possibility of altruism obliges patients – and future patients – to make decisions about dying and other medical matters in advance, thus avoiding that displacement of decision-making onto lay and professional second parties which results in altruism's eclipse. Keywords: altruism, medical decision-making, patient's interest, self-interest, autonomy, death and dying decisions, refusal of treatment, prolongation of life, allowing to die, high-risk research CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
While a national health care system may be greeted with enthusiasm on many grounds, it poses substantial moral problems – not the least of which would be the clash between the ‘standardization’ of care for the sake of efficiency and the needs of individual patients. Such problems are best seen in the treatment of dying patients. Keywords: best buy, cost-saving, dying, efficiency, practice guidelines, Rilke, standards of practice, two tier CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
Is suicide wrong, profoundly morally wrong? Almost always wrong, but excusable in a few cases? Sometimes morally permissible? Imprudent, but not wrong? Is it sick, a matter of mental illness? Is it a private matter or a largely social one? Could it sometimes be right, or a "noble duty," or even a fundamental human right? Whether it is called "suicide" or not, what role may a person play in the end of his or her own life?This collection of primary sources--the (...) principal texts of ethical interest from major writers in western and nonwestern cultures, from the principal religious traditions, and from oral cultures where observer reports of traditional practices are available, spanning Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Oceania, the Arctic, and North and South America--facilitates exploration of many controversial practical issues: physician-assisted suicide or aid-in-dying; suicide in social or political protest; self-sacrifice and martyrdom; suicides of honor or loyalty; religious and ritual practices that lead to death, including sati or widow-burning, hara-kiri, and sallekhana, or fasting unto death; and suicide bombings, kamikaze missions, jihad, and other tactical and military suicides. This collection has no interest in taking sides in controversies about the ethics of suicide; rather, rather, it serves to expand the character of these debates, by showing them to be multi-dimensional, a complex and vital part of human ethical thought. (shrink)