Ethics of physician-assisted suicide

Answer both question

1) In the NICU, technology most clearly drives ethics. Twenty years ago, we simply couldn’t save (or had a very difficult time saving) 25 week old infants. There was no dilemma as to whether we should save them. We simply couldn’t. Now, we have the technology, but we also have new ethical choices before us. In discussion this week, my questions ask you to focus on who should decide whether a very premature infant lives or dies. “Who decides” reflects other ethical questions as well. I have heard pediatric specialists talk to their medical assistants about whether it is right to do everything possible to save a child without consideration of whether the parents can care for the child later, especially if he or she will be extremely disabled. This is a good question, and there are more questions to ask too. Your assigned reading this week takes a particular point of view on this topic, but I appreciate that he also gives a little historical context to the issues. The Wicclair essay sets futility in a larger clinical context. Is it ever right for a medical professional to refuse to provide an intervention for a patient on the grounds of futility? These are issues hospitals in the U.S. struggle with nearly every week.

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2) The ethics of physician-assisted suicide used to be in the news regularly. I recommend looking at the links to stories and websites on the announcement page and under Course Materials, as well as doing the readings for the week. Proposals like Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act have been the model for similar statutes in several states so far. You may vote on the issues we discuss this week someday soon. Still, the issues this week are difficult and controversial. I hope our readings and discussion will help you consider the controversy and weigh multiple sides of the issue. Issues of death and dying (and responsibilities to family) are, again, very sensitive issues. Even though we each exist in a divided political environment, thank you for practicing generosity and openness in this space

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