Blog Posts (88)
January 21, 2016
I generally give 5 reasons for opposing physician-assisted suicide (PAS), which is commonly recommended by its advocates by invoking the notion of a “right to die”: it destroys the soul of medicine as the profession dedicated to healing; it deflects attention from palliative care; it rests on a very slippery slope; a right to die implies a reciprocal duty to kill; and the notion of... // Read More »
January 19, 2016
As I was doing some research on the issue of physician assisted suicide and patient requests for death, I came across a news headline titled “Euthanasia Rules Relaxed for People with Serious Dementia.” Intrigued, I followed the link to learn that the Netherlands are now allowing for aid in dying to occur when severely demented patients have a written euthanasia request. From my understanding, this... // Read More »
January 7, 2016
Being Human: Core Readings in the Humanities, edited by Leon Kass, is one book worth a spot on the shelf of anyone interested in bioethics or concerns about human dignity. A series of excerpts from things that we read—or should have read—in high school or college, it was selected by the members of President George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Bioethics in 2003. The readings... // Read More »
December 24, 2015
I am thinking of two friends from church with advanced cancer, both men about my age, 60-ish. One has a high-grade brain tumor, persistent after standard therapy and more than one experimental new treatment. He’s a fighter, looking for something new to try. He’s an ex-Marine, famously fit at baseline, willing and able to tolerate some toxicity. He also tells me that he is trusting... // Read More »
December 18, 2015
One year ago today (12/17/14), Steve Phillips posted on this blog on the approximate one year anniversary (Dec. 12) of the declaration that then 13-year old Jahi McMath was brain dead, after complications of, of all things, what one would think should have been a simple tonsillectomy. At the time, she was described as having her vital functions artificially maintained, as her parents pressed their... // Read More »
October 1, 2015
Wesley Smith offers this link to a Dutch story about a family considering legal action against the general physician who declined to support a family member’s wish for assistance in dying. The article, which I was able to read only after Google toolbar translation from the Dutch, describes the case of a person who apparently was 19 years old and wanting to end her life... // Read More »
September 28, 2015
In their article “Autonomy vs. Selflessness at the End of Life” published in the Summer 2015 edition of Ethics & Medicine, Hannah Martin and Daryl Sas provide a useful foray into the battle over the meaning of human dignity. The authors describe an alternative to the “flat” version of human dignity espoused by proponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS)—a version based solely on self-determination. In other... // Read More »
September 25, 2015
Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune carries an editorial by Steve Chapman entitled “The Case for the ‘right to die.’” Aside from missing the central point of the whole question, Chapman does a creditable job of marshalling arguments and bioethicists to support his support for physician-assisted suicide. However, he does neglect the central point, which, of course, is that doctors do not and should not kill — including not giving... // Read More »
September 14, 2015
In a recent post Jon Holmlund cited Thomas B. Edsall’s op-ed in the New York Times, “The Republican Conception of Conception.” Edsall was referring to the concept that life begins at conception. It is his hope that Republicans either stake a consistent position regarding the morality of post-conception “contraception” and incur the disfavor of the electorate, or abandon their “moral purity” in favor of “pragmatism” and... // Read More »
September 10, 2015
https://www.afsp.org/news-events/in-the-news/national-suicide-prevention-week I didn’t realize that when I published the post that just went up. So the vote in California is timely, I guess. A Hat Tip to Wesley Smith, who linked to this in a post today on National Review Online’s “The Corner.”
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October 23, 2012 6:01 pm
[I]n South Australia last week, a bill has been proposed to clarify the legal status of advance directives. One very small part of that bill involves a modification to an older palliative care act. The modification corrects an ambiguity in wording in the earlier act. The ambiguity is subtle. However, that choice of words has had major consequences for seriously ill children and adults in South Australia and for health practitioners. It is a salutary reminder of how hard it is to enact good laws in the area of end of life, and how easily such laws can make things worse rather than better.
September 21, 2012 8:12 pm
EDINA, Minn. — Just down the hallway, in Room 356, Curtis Kelly’s body lay covered to the chest by a white blanket, his torso rising and falling with the help of a ventilator. A neurologist at Fairview Southdale Hospital had declared him brain-dead nearly six hours earlier. Mr. Kelly’s far-flung family — a son, three siblings, a sister-in-law, his girlfriend and the daughter of a former girlfriend — had gathered in a narrow conference room in the intensive care unit so that John P. LeMay could ask permission to recover his tissue and organs.
August 14, 2012 7:47 pm
Healthcare providers should have rapid access to legal remedies for end-of-life disputes involving children whose parents resist withdrawal of aggressive therapy on the basis of religious beliefs, authors of a review concluded. Over a 3-year period, 17 of 203 cases could not be resolved after lengthy discussions with parents. Subsequently, most of the cases were resolved, but five remained undecided, each because of the parents’ belief in a miracle for their children, according to an article published online in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
August 14, 2012 7:45 pm
Arthur Caplan, the head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, recalls a case of a man who had beaten his six-month-old child to death. It was a horror the mother simply could not accept. A deeply religious woman, she pushed the doctors to do more, telling them that God would intervene and allow her daughter to make a miraculous recovery. For several hours there was a tense standoff between caregivers and parent.
August 7, 2012 9:35 pm
Living or dying is not at issue. The question this family confronts is how the patient will die: a little sooner, with adequate morphine, surrounded by loved ones in the hospice unit, or a little later, in a never dark or quiet patch of the I.C.U., ribs broken by failed, if well-intentioned, CPR. Add to this the following: The patient and family are black. And while race should not be relevant at this moment, research tells us otherwise.
July 27, 2012 5:57 pm
Are doctors more likely to refuse revival in the event of cardiac arrest? In the Hopkins study, 90 percent of doctors said they’d rather die by cardiac arrest than be resuscitated. Only a quarter of the public feels the same way. Do doctors know something we don’t about the miracles of CPR? In one Japanese study of 95,000 CPR cases, just eight percent of patients survived for longer than a month after being revived.
July 26, 2012 4:25 pm
Another challenge for the U.S. with respect to overall health care costs is our cultural approach to end of life care. Medicare now estimates that 27 percent of its budget goes for care provided in the last year of life, and a big chunk of that is spent in the last few weeks of a person’s life. The Lien Foundation did a study on end of life care in 40 developed countries. While the U.S. ranked high on the availability and quality of end-of-life care, its cost of care was one of the highest.
July 11, 2012 6:41 pm
“Countries differ greatly in demography, culture and organization of medical care,” Lo, who is also director of the medical ethics program at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in a comment accompanying the study. More in- depth information is needed to better understand how patients and physicians reach their decisions, he said.
July 10, 2012 4:23 pm
There are calls for a Queensland doctor to be stripped of his right to practice medicine and investigated over allegations he prematurely ended the lives of patients under his care. Former Queensland Medical Board investigator Jo Barber says the doctor’s actions are so dangerous he could have been charged with manslaughter or murder. Ms Barber says there are a number of deaths linked to the doctor, who, after fronting the state’s medical board, was allowed to continue practising as long as he was not working in intensive care.
July 9, 2012 9:12 pm
Protecting the health and wellbeing of the population directly or indirectly involved with death and dying is a huge public health challenge. Currently, high quality end of life care is not yet available in most parts of the world, and in those countries where it is available it is not accessible or not initiated timely for all in need, independent of their disease, age, gender, socioeconomic, or ethnic background. Largely as a result of that, a large majority receives overly aggressive treatment until death or shortly before death, has undertreated psychological and physical symptoms at the end of life, and is not able to die in a place or manner that accords with their personal preferences.
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