General Question

basp's avatar

Crime or compassion?

Asked by basp (4806points) February 20th, 2009 from iPhone

How do you feel about assisting a terminally ill person in suicide?

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12 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

If they are in horrible pain, and the pain is endless, I support it.

Dog's avatar

I think it says a lot about civilization that we will humanely euthanize our beloved pets but will watch Grandpa slowly suffer.

Aethelwine's avatar

I support the act, but I don’t think that I could do it myself. (assist)

elijah's avatar

If the person is terminally ill, like beyond any point of getting better, I don’t see anything wrong with it. I do believe that the whole family should attend some sort of counseling first, and multiple counseling sessions for the patient.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I agree. We’ve signed living wills & our doctor & daughters each have copies.

shilolo's avatar

I would be in favor of a carefully controlled and structured situation where, as elijahsuicide says, counseling and clearly defined issues are discussed.

As a society we also need to address the issue of families dragging out the last few months of a loved one’s life in hospitals. So many times I see the unfortunate scenario of an elderly, demented patient who clearly has no idea of their surroundings being dragged into the hospital repeatedly for various issues such as infection or dehydration by their “loving” family. The patient (their loved one) is almost always days from death, but, through the wonders of modern medicine, we are able to “save” them to live for another few weeks-months. This process is often repeated (with the same patient), until, eventually (and fortunately), something happens that is irreversible (though that doesn’t stop the family from insisting that it isn’t). We spend millions of dollars (per person) on the last year of someone’s life, and frequently it is exactly as I described above. As doctors, we are ethically and morally bound to “do no harm” and also, to focus on the well-being of our patients. Too often, this code is at odds with the demands of families, and the suffering patient is caught in between.

elijah's avatar

@shilolo that’s exactly how I feel. People love their family member so much they will do anything to draw their life out every last possible minute. It’s selfish. No one wants to lose someone they love but sometimes love clouds your mind. Also I think besides denial I think people feel guilt, because they think what if one more procedure could of saved their life. As a doctor I’m sure you’ve seen this so many times. It must be so hard to deal with.

shilolo's avatar

@elijahsuicide That issue is probably the toughest to deal with in hospital-based medicine. When one’s medical opinion is so utterly and completely disregarded so that people can be kept alive artificially without hope of recovery. It’s one thing if someone has a reversible problem (severe pneumonia in an otherwise healthy person). Of course, we should do everything possible to keep them alive. But, severe pneumonia in a terminal cancer patient or demented 95 year old, not so much. Even if we can fix the pneumonia (which we often can), we still cannot correct the underlying problem, and therein lies the issue. We see the forest, and patients’ families see the trees.

wundayatta's avatar

Still, think of it from the family’s point of view? The pressure to be “good” children. For most of us, that means doing the best for our parents, and that means taking every measure to extend their lives.

It gets worse. If you are due to inherit a big inheritance, you have to do even more, just to prove you love your parent, and aren’t just in it for the money.

Even in these times when people have living wills, and instructions about their care if they become incompetent, it isn’t enough. It is hard to interpret these things, and if the kids are arguing about it, the default position is to do everything you can.

We need training in how to let go. There are hospices, where you can go for your last days, to die. You aren’t given so much care, except for things to make you comfortable, while remaining as lucid as you can be. Sometimes there are tradeoffs between pain and lucidity.

This is so much more complicated than the cost of care vs the return on investment. Are all lives worth the same? We like to say yes, but the truth is that it’s not so simple. In some cultures, old people go off to die, when they feel they are too much of a burden on their community and family. We don’t have that kind of recognition any more. When did we lose it?

Dog's avatar

When my grandmother was dying her Doctor had us trying to get her up and walking. I regret putting her through that “for her own good” to this day. When she passed I remember thinking how I would have done anything for her had she been able to live- but I heard her voice in my head- seriously I did- and she said
“You did not mind but * I * did”

augustlan's avatar

I’m for it. It should be legal and well regulated.

BookReader's avatar

…very provocative question…i normally look at quality of life as a pursuit to prolonged happy interactive existence…

…it would depend on the circumstances played out in reality…

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