Euthanasia has always been a strongly debated topic because of its serious moral and social implications. Euthanasia has an enormous effect on the patient, the physicians, nurses and the family members of the patient. The moral issues evolve around the question of who has that ultimate right to end one’s life. In the case of Terri Schiavo, whose persistent vegetative state prevented her from deciding for herself, was it her husband or her parents or the Courts who should decide for her? The sanctity of the human life is a major consideration. Advocates of euthanasia argue that terminally-ill patients should not be subjected to severe pain and that there is no more sanctity in the kind of life that they are living; thus, they must be given the option to end their life.
Physicians have a big role to play in the practice of euthanasia. Their values and beliefs impact on how they will act on a patient’s refusal to get medical treatment because their main duty is to give the best possible care for a patient and prolong his life. Euthanasia runs counter to their code of ethics.
Euthanasia affects the social values of people as shown in the Schiavo case wherein the whole nation showed concern over the case. There were those who pushed for the right to die, while others believed in the right to live, no matter what state the patient is.
Like with all other healthcare practitioners, the voluntary/assisted euthanasia has an impact on the nursing practice. Nurses, being the hospital staff who see the patient almost every minute, have a better understanding of what the patient is undergoing. As such, they have a responsibility to reach out to the patients, not only as healthcare providers but maybe even as “friends” of the patient, who are honestly after the patient’s welfare. If the patient feels this concern from their nurses, then they might be encouraged to have a personal interaction with their nurses and discuss their feelings regarding their thoughts on why they want to be euthanized. The nurses can somehow dissuade the patient and explain to them the possibilities open to them despite their situation.
The debate on euthanasia goes on. There is a plethora of justifications and arguments on euthanasia but in the end, what will really matter are the values and norms of the people who are involved in the decision, be it the patient, family members, health practitioners or the Courts.
Burt, R. A. (1998). Confronting death: Who chooses? Who controls? A dialogue between Dax Cowart and Robert Burt. Faculty Scholarship Series - Paper 706, 13-24.