Autonomy and Medical Practice What Essay

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3). How does a caregiver justify making decisions such as those mentioned above, decisions that are based on the caregiver's values and beliefs? Harris is very clear in this regard that these issues are both moral and philosophical, and the real problem is in how the issues are resolved and based on what standards and morals.

It's not merely about understanding the "natural of moral problems," John Harris explains (p. 4), and it's not just about what is right and what is wrong with reference to medical and human issues. But rather the answers following a decision that is framed in a morally right or wrong context have to be followed up with a good autonomous reason as to "why this is so," Harris continues (p. 4). It is Harris's assertion that a person can only claim that the action they took or the decision they made was based on a moral considerations "…if they can say why those actions and decisions are right, if they can show how they are justified" (author's italics) (p. 4).

In the Netherlands the concept of euthanasia the individual that is suffering must be legally suffering in an "unbearable" way in order to justify euthanasia, Richard Huxtable writes. And in Holland the "other person" must be a licensed physician, not just someone the patient has identified as preferable. On the subject of Holland and euthanasia, Huxtable references the case called "Brongersma," which is the name of an 86-year-old man who was "tired of life" and had his suicide assisted in 1998 by a general practitioner, Huxtable explains on pae 117.

Is being "tired of life" enough to justify committing suicide legally with the help of a doctor? If that is the autonomous decision, why shouldn't be meet the "principled boundary" that the prosecutor in Holland asked the courts to meet in cases of euthanasia? The lessons of this case will be applicable in England and elsewhere, Huxtable continues. The author asks three poignant and pertinent questions, which indeed will have application elsewhere: a) is it ever acceptable for a doctor to help a very elderly person commit suicide simply because that elderly person is "finished with life"? b) On which grounds may a physician help the suicide of an individual "whose suffering is neither somatic nor psychiatric?" And c) is there a consensus among doctors in the Netherlands on these questions? (Huxtable, p. 118).

There may or may not be consensus but Huxtable reports that the experts' opinions in Holland basically boiled down to the fact that when older people are "tired of life" that is a "general social, rather than more narrowly medical, problem," and hence there was no "unbearable suffering" in this instance. In his conclusion, Huxtable says that once "voluntary euthanasia as performed by a doctor is allowed" it will be (and has been) difficult to "draw a principled line restricting this to (seemingly) straightforward cases of 'medical' suffering" (p. 126). The debate "is far from over," the author concludes.


The issue of physician-assisted suicide -- and all the arguments and side bar stories and opinions -- will not be settled anytime soon. When there are psychologists, doctors, lawyers, judges, ordinary lay people, clergy and politicians involved in the milieu, no certain policy is expected to emerge. But one thing is certain and that is the current trend points to autonomy as a necessarily part of the final decision.

Works Cited

Beckwith, Francis J. "Absolute Autonomy and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Putting a Bad Idea

Out of Its Misery," in Suicide: A Christian Response: Crucial Considerations for Choosing

Life, Eds. T. Demy ad G. Stewart.

Bickenback, Jerome E. "Disability and Life-Ending Decisions," in Physician-Assisted Suicide:

Expanding the Debate, Eds. M. Battin, R. Rhodes, and A. Silvers. London: Psychology

Press, 1998.

Harris, John. The Value of Life. London: Psychology Press, 1990.

Huxtable, Richard. Euthanasia, Ethics and the Law: From Conflict to Compromise. New York:

Routledge, 2007.

Huxtable, Richard, and Moller, Maaike. "Setting a Principled Boundary'? Euthanasia as a Response to…[continue]

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