End of Life and Quality of Life Issues

Provide your impression by answering the questions below. This commentary should be at least 3 to 5 pages, with supporting references in APA format.

Should Physicians Be Allowed to Assist in Patient Suicide?

“Since the early 1980s, physicians, lawyers, philosophers, and judges have examined questions about withholding life-sustaining treatment. Their deliberations have resulted in a broad consensus that competent adults have the right to make decisions about their medical care, even if those decisions seem unjustifiable to others and even if they result in death. Furthermore, the right of individuals to name others to carry out their prior wishes or to make decisions if they should become incompetent is not well established. Thirty-eight states now have legislation allowing advance directives (commonly known as “living wills”).

The debate in specific cases continues (see, for example, the issue on withholding food and nutrition), but on the whole, patient’s rights to self-determination have been bolstered by 80 or more legal cases, dozens of reports, and statements made by medical societies and other organizations.

As often occurs in the bioethical debate, the resolution of one issue only highlights the lack of resolution about another. There is clearly no consensus about either euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.

Like truth telling, euthanasia is an old problem given the new dimensions by the ability of modern technology to prolong life; the majority of cases in which euthanasia is raised as a possibility are among the most difficult ethical issues to resolve, for they involve the conflict between a physician’s duty to preserve life and burden on the patient and the family that is created by fulfilling that duty. One common distinction is between active euthanasia (that is, some positive act such as administering a lethal injection) and passive euthanasia (that is, an inaction such as deciding not to administer antibiotics when the patient has a severe infection). Another common distinction is between voluntary euthanasia (that is, the patient wishes to die and consents to the action that will make it happen) and involuntary or nonvoluntary euthanasia (that is, the patient is unable to consent, perhaps because he or she is in a coma). Is it ethical for a physician to assist in a hopelessly ill patient’s suicide? When death is inevitable, how far should one go in hastening it?” (Levine, 2008, pp. 88–89).


Levine, C. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views on bioethical issues, (12th ed.), pp. 88–89. Dubuque, IA: McGraw HilI: ISBN:

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