Passive Mercy Killing
According to medical practice, mercy killing is described as the act of allowing an individual to die or putting him to death painlessly through withholding medical procedures from the individual if he is diagnosed of an incurable painful condition (Khan, & Tadros, 2013). Owing to this definition, disconnecting the respirator and the events surrounding the death of Harryelt Gessner was a mercy killing. Marry Rose Robacynski explained in court that she was only trying to act in the best interest of the patient who was helpless after she could not feel any pulse or blood pressure. Additionally, I believe that this was morally different from simply failing to resuscitate the patient when he had his next respiratory arrest. The latter would imply that, Marry Rose Robacynski failed to perform the necessary procedure resulting into murder and not mercy killing.
As opposed to active killing, which entails a medical professional or another individual doing something deliberately to cause the death of a patient, passive killing entails the death of a patient resulting from the medical professionals either stopping something that keeps the patient alive or do not do something necessary to keep the patient alive (Smolin, 1994). Therefore, disconnecting the respirator cannot be classified as active killing; it is a passive mercy killing.
In my opinion, I believe that Ms. Robacsynski assisted Mr. Gessner to die because she had assessed his condition would not let him live any longer. It is indicated that he would have died in any case within hours. However, due to the pain he was going through, Ms. Robacsynski decided to passively assist him to die. Mr. Gessner could also request for the disconnection. However, in this case, the case was severe, which could not allow him to make the request. Therefore, I would view her actions similarly if Mr. Gessner asked to be disconnected from his respirator. Additionally, his condition might impair his judgment thereby making his requests invalid.
Khan F. & Tadros G. (Jan-Mar, 2013). Physician-assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in Indian Context: Sooner or Later the Need to Ponder! Indian Journal of Psychology Medicine. 35(1): 101–105. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.112220
Smolin, D. M. (1994). The free exercise clause, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the right to active and passive euthanasia. Issues In Law & Medicine, 103-54.