Is physician assisted suicide legal for a patient with a terminal illness of sound mind and able to make their own healthcare decisions? The topic of compassion in dying is an extremely controversial topic as it is very personal depending on one’s own personal moral, ethical, and spiritual views. Healthcare providers duty is to protect the autonomy and dignity of a patient’s ability to manage their healthcare, which can include the dying process but bringing it to an exact time and date violates the statute that states that a healthcare provider is guilty of promoting a suicide attempt when he/she knowingly causes or helps a person in their suicide attempt.
This writer personally believes that taking one’s own life is a sin according to the Chrisitan bible. However, there is a grey area in which comfort measures can require such extensive management that it may hasten death. For example, in a patient with end stage lung disease struggling to breathe may require opioids such as morphine to ease air hunger. Morphine decreases respiratory drive, which will stop the body from compensating and drive it into an acidotic state thus bringing a cessation to body function more quickly. Without the opioids, the body may not be able to compensate on it’s own because of its weakened state due to the chronic illness so it’s hard to pinpoint if one method caused death or the other, but this writer is of the belief that everyone has the right to pass on as comfortably as possible.
This writer grew up in a conservative Christian home where the teachings of religion were used as a foundation for the family core values. The ten commandments was a guiding beam into core values, including the sixth that states that one should not murder applies directly to this topic. Other verses such as 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 state that our bodies are the temple of the Lord and if we destroy the temple, the Lord will destroy us. Instead, in other verses the Lord urged His loved one’s to maintain their hope and faith in Him, and He will ease their burdens and reward those who kept the faith. However, there are many examples of kings and disciples that took their own life in the Bible in moments of weakness or even of sacrifice. Romans states that those who love the Lord and have given their hearts to him that neither death nor life will separate those from His love.
Based on biblical values of taking care of the weak and needy, it drives nursing practice to provide nursing care and ease the suffering wherever possible. In situations of terminal illness, it is virtuous of a nurse to help the patient establish autonomy with their own care by aiding in difficult decisions such as making advanced directive action and designation of a healthcare surrogate to carry out with their issues when they are no longer able. Another behavior is advocating for the patient when those disagree with their decisions or try interventions that may not follow their wishes to extend their lives such as artificially providing nutrition and fluids.
The dilemma of physician assisted suicide or compassionate death most directly affects the physician handling the care of the terminally ill patient and the patient themself. There are statues in place that prevent a physician from knowingly assisting a patient to end their own life, which can result in jail time, fines, or loss of licensure. On the other end of the spectrum, this may mean prolonged suffering for the patient in physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental ways that can be gruesome.
In the hospital setting, the writer is bound by the duty framework of ethics to provide care, which keeps all healthcare providers operating within a legal realm. This set of guidelines gives the advantage of everyone consistent expectations and ensures fairness, equality in dignity and respect (Bonde & Firenze, 2013). This writer believes that it is within a healthcare providers ability to ease the suffering to a bearable amount for patients without assisting in suicide.
Provision 3.6 of the American Nurses’s Association Code of Ethics discusses impaired practice and the nurses obligation to extend compassion
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