Introduction and reports intention
In the past, dying was not a big issue. Patients with chronic illnesses decided to live the rest of their lives under the care of friends and family. In other words, the patients would choose to spend the remaining days close to their family and friends. Nowadays, however, ending somebody’s life has become complicated with aid of machines. However, in most cases, the problem is not even ending the life of a patient, but the effect it has on the person who does it. In this article, the focus will be on a case where a patient suffering from a chronic mental illness, schizophrenia, is ushered in John’s clinic and the person who has brought her recommends euthanasia as the only solution. Although a person close to the patient was in support of euthanasia, he could not find the courage to do it.
During his internship program as a psychiatrist, John met with so many patients who were suffering from schizophrenia. This mental condition hinders a patient from seeing the reality (Weinberger & Harrison 2011, p. 156). If the condition persists, the victim is denied the ability to continue leading a normal life. However, one of his patients was suffering from chronic schizophrenia, and his wife had reached a point of no return. Indeed, he would come for medication and the condition would stabilize, but hardly did a day end from the time John would discharge him before the situation creeps back. From drug therapy to anti-psychotics, he had applied all the techniques that would help stabilize his condition without success (Beck et al 2008, p. 111). During all this time, his wife was very supportive but as time progressed, it dawned on her that her husband was suffering from a lifelong sickness that would require him to remain in hospital for the rest of his life.
Out of desperation, she recommended euthanasia to end her agony and that of his husband. This was the first time in his profession that John had met a person asking him to carry out mercy killing.
Effects- psychological and emotional
From the time she recommended that to him, John was deeply affected emotionally and psychologically. In his mind, he could not contain the pressure that was coming from her. He felt powerless and isolated. He knew it was not moral to end the life of his patient even if he was suffering from a lifelong sickness. He felt that he needed an opportunity to live his life just like any other person, but his wife was here disagreeing. The whole thing affected him badly, so much so that, he started feeling like he had already done the act. To begin with, euthanasia was murder; it would mean spending the rest of his life in prison. According to medical ethics, it can only be done upon the request of the victim. He suffered from stress and for the first time, he felt he was in the wrong career. On the other hand, his patient’s wife was suffering from stress due to financial constraints and the strong feeling of ending the life of her husband had taken a better part of her.
John’s attitude towards the whole idea was negative. He was not capable of hurting a fly let alone killing a human being. He holds the view that killing the other person cannot be justified for whatever reasons. As a psychiatrist, he is required to enhance the life of his patients and not the other way round. With utmost care, a patient can survive against all odds and this case was no exception. For many doctors, it is hard to know whether the person pushing for euthanasia is with the best interests at heart or he or she stands to gain may be from the wealth of the patient. Another reason why he has a negative attitude towards mercy killing is that it can result to too many deaths, which could have survived in future. Ezra (2006) observes that euthanasia would only make patients to lose trust with doctors (p. 56). Through euthanasia, the vulnerable in the society would be victimized and health care would be outdated.
From his thinking, he started looking things differently. First, this was his patient who had put so much trust in him, and applying mercy killing to end his life would mean betraying that trust. He was also thinking that, putting him under extreme medical care would help stabilize the situation. The patient would need more therapies and may be the situation would improve. He also felt that, by applying mercy killing, the guilt feelings that he was already experiencing prior to the act would only get worse. He decided to change his behavior by being uncooperative so that the whole plan would fail. John also decided to embark on a thorough research looking for ways in which he could help his patient to recover. The more he continued having positive feeling that his patient would recover, the more the guilt feelings faded away.
In order to achieve a better outcome, there are a number of things decided to apply. Firstly, counseling the family members of the patient can help a lot in making of decisions that would contribute towards improving the health of the patient. It is advisable to keep encouraging the family concerned that the patient will recover. They should be reminded that their support is highly needed and the rate at which the patient will recover depends on them. Secondly, apart from the recommended way of treating a schizophrenia patient, he concluded that doing more research can help one do something differently and the patient may improve. Thirdly, in order to alienate guilt feelings, spending time thinking positively can give one an extremely easy time.
In the view of the above case, there are five measurable strategies that can be implemented to enhance how one feels, thinks, and behaves in order to face such a situation in future. The first strategy is understanding one’s limit and sticking to them. This is especially the case in one’s profession. Accepting to do more than one can handle can ruin one’s career. The second strategy is in avoiding the person who might bring trouble. It is also recommended that one can terminate the relationship with that person for good. For instance, in the above case, avoiding the wife of his patient was the only way to keep him alive. Thirdly, taking control of one’s environment is very helpful. For instance, when mercy killing was recommended to John, he had to contain the situation by looking at the positive side of things. The fourth strategy lies in avoiding intense arguments. An intense argument can complicate a situation and the only way to play cool is by avoiding it. In his case, arguing with the woman would have resulted to more stress and probably arriving at a hasty decision. Lastly, focusing on what is positive is very helpful in putting things in perspective. If John was not positive that his patient would recover, he would have opted for mercy killing.
Even on medical grounds, ending the life of a patient is not a simple thing even when the idea is coming from a close relative. The effects on the physician are emotional and psychological. One feels isolated and powerless. Mercy killing can lead to patients losing trust in doctors. It can be used by a bad-intentioned person to eliminate another for his or her own personal gain. For whatever reasons, there is no need to deny somebody a right to live. To avoid such things from happening, a doctor should keep encouraging the family members of the patient that he or she is going to recover. There are a number of strategies that can be very helpful in enhancing how one thinks, feels and behaves. Firstly, one should keep to his or her limits and staying away from troublemakers. When one is faced with a difficult issue, taking control of the environment can help a lot besides avoiding heated debates.
Beck, A., Rector, N., Stolar, N. (2008). Schizophrenia: cognitive theory, research, and therapy
Chicago: Guilford Press, 98-134
Ezra, O. (2006). Moral dilemmas in real life: current issues in applied ethics Volume 74 of Law
and philosophy library. New York: Springer publishers 45-78
Weinberger, D., Harrison, P. (2011).
Schizophrenia (3rd ed). New York: John Wiley and Sons