End of Life Issues
When considering euthanasia it is helpful to consider letting someone die (passive euthanasia) as a separate from helping someone die. While our society has largely come to accept that under some circumstances, terminally ill patients (or, if the patient is not incompetent to make such a decision, a close relative) have the right not to except extraordinary medical interventions to keep them alive. Although many people also believe such a decision to be wrong, our society has come to accept this as a dyeing person’s right.
Such was not always the case. Until recently, the terminally ill, having decided they wished to end their lives, frequently found themselves fighting their own doctors, who disagree with their patient’s decision.
“The attitude of many doctors and patients are leftovers from more paternalistic days, when professionals advised the uneducated on all areas of life -- not just the ones they were trained for.
Doctors’ objections to letting someone die often can be traced to the Hippocratic Oath. “It’s wrong because doctors should not cause harm … but should always act only for the benefit of the patient after assessing the risk/benefit ratio,” was common thinking among physicians.
Additionally, doctors often seemed to act under the assumption that if something could be done, it ought to be done. If the technology existed to keep someone alive, than that technology out to be used, and the decision on whether to use the machinery ought to rest with the person who knew the most about the machine’s operation, rather than the one whose life (or death) the machine would impact.
Additionally, doctors were to some extent afraid that they could be sued if they failed to use every machine, and prescription every pill, at their disposal.