Voluntary euthanasia under control? Further empirical evidence from The Netherlands.
Nineteen ninety-six saw the publication of a major Dutch survey into euthanasia in the Netherlands. This paper outlines the main statistical findings of this survey and considers whether it shows that voluntary euthanasia is under effective control in the Netherlands. The paper concludes that although there has been some improvement in compliance with procedural requirements, the practice of voluntary euthanasia remains beyond effective control. (+info)
Withholding/withdrawing treatment from neonates: legislation and official guidelines across Europe.
Representatives from eight European countries compared the legal, ethical and professional settings within which decision making for neonates takes place. When it comes to limiting treatment there is general agreement across all countries that overly aggressive treatment is to be discouraged. Nevertheless, strong emphasis has been placed on the need for compassionate care even where cure is not possible. Where a child will die irrespective of medical intervention, there is widespread acceptance of the practice of limiting aggressive treatment or alleviating suffering even if death may be hastened as a result. Where the infant could be saved but the future outlook is bleak there is more debate, but only two countries have tested the courts with such cases. When it comes to the active intentional ending of life, the legal position is standard across Europe; it is prohibited. However, recognising those intractable situations where death may be lingering and unpleasant, Dutch paediatricians have reported that they do sometimes assist babies to die with parental consent. Two cases have been tried through the courts and recent official recommendations have set out standards by which such actions may be assessed. (+info)
Ignorance is bliss? HIV and moral duties and legal duties to forewarn.
In 1997, a court in Cyprus jailed Pavlos Georgiou for fifteen months for knowingly infecting a British woman, Janet Pink, with HIV-1 through unprotected sexual intercourse. Pink met Georgiou in January 1994 whilst on holiday. She discovered that she had contracted the virus from him in October 1994 but continued the relationship until July 1996 when she developed AIDS. She returned to the UK for treatment and reported Georgiou to the Cypriot authorities. There have been a number of legal cases involving deliberate transmission of HIV, but most have involved forced exposure to infected bodily fluids for example, rape or biting, and have been dealt with using the existing legislation for rape or assault. While it is often difficult to prove responsibility for transmission in cases of forced exposure to HIV, it is even more contentious in cases like those of Janet Pink where an individual has consented to sex but claims that he/she was not forewarned of his/her partner's HIV-positive status. At present there is no specific criminal offence of having unprotected sexual intercourse without disclosing one's HIV-positive status but a prosecution could possibly be brought under any one of a number of existing offences. Perhaps a change of policy needs to be considered. The Home Office has issued a consultation document which outlines a proposal that will allow the criminalization of intentional transmission of diseases, like HIV, that are likely to cause serious harm. This revised legislation would cover all other potentially fatal diseases (including salmonella and legionnaire's disease, for instance) but seems primarily to be targeted at HIV transmission. Should transmission of HIV through consensual sex, without the HIV-positive status of the individual being disclosed, be an offence? This question, and that of whether there is a moral obligation to disclose a positive HIV status prior to having a sexual relationship is the subject of this paper. (+info)
Death--whose decision? Euthanasia and the terminally ill.
In Australia and Oregon, USA, legislation to permit statutory sanctioned physician-assisted dying was enacted. However, opponents, many of whom held strong religious views, were successful with repeal in Australia. Similar opposition in Oregon was formidable, but ultimately lost in a 60-40% vote reaffirming physician-assisted dying. This paper examines the human dilemma which arises when technological advances in end-of-life medicine conflict with traditional and religious sanctity-of-life values. Society places high value on personal autonomy, particularly in the United States. We compare the potential for inherent contradictions and arbitrary decisions where patient autonomy is either permitted or forbidden. The broader implications for human experience resulting from new legislation in both Australia and Oregon are discussed. We conclude that allowing autonomy for the terminally ill, within circumscribed options, results in fewer ethical contradictions and greater preservation of dignity. (+info)
At the coalface: medical ethics in practice. A double dose of double effect.
This paper presents a clinically orientated illustration of the doctrine of double effect. The case of an elderly gentleman with advanced cancer is discussed, with particular emphasis on two dilemmas encountered during the terminal phase of his illness. The author describes how the doctrine of double effect was applied to help the team make some complex management decisions. (+info)
Patients, families, and organ donation: who should decide?
Although 69 to 75 percent of U.S. adults say they would be willing to become organ donors, half of the families that are asked to consider donating the organs of a deceased family member refuse to consent. This discrepancy is most noticeable when the refusal of a family conflicts with the known wishes of a patient. It is the practice of nearly all organ procurement organizations in the United States not to procure organs or tissue when families refuse, even if the patient's wishes have been documented. Recently, the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) adopted a controversial policy of acting on the documented wishes of individuals to donate, independent of family consent. An examination of the moral and political issues raised by this policy lead to the conclusion that the CORE policy is not only justified, but morally required. (+info)
Are medical ethicists out of touch? Practitioner attitudes in the US and UK towards decisions at the end of life.
OBJECTIVES: To assess whether UK and US health care professionals share the views of medical ethicists about medical futility, withdrawing/withholding treatment, ordinary/extraordinary interventions, and the doctrine of double effect. DESIGN, SUBJECTS AND SETTING: A 138-item attitudinal questionnaire completed by 469 UK nurses studying the Open University course on "Death and Dying" was compared with a similar questionnaire administered to 759 US nurses and 687 US doctors taking the Hastings Center course on "Decisions near the End of Life". RESULTS: Practitioners accept the relevance of concepts widely disparaged by bioethicists: double effect, medical futility, and the distinctions between heroic/ordinary interventions and withholding/withdrawing treatment. Within the UK nurses' group a "rationalist" axis of respondents who describe themselves as having "no religion" are closer to the bioethics consensus on withholding and withdrawing treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Professionals' beliefs differ substantially from the recommendations of their professional bodies and from majority opinion in bioethics. Bioethicists should be cautious about assuming that their opinions will be readily accepted by practitioners. (+info)
Interpretations, perspectives and intentions in surrogate motherhood.
In this paper we examine the questions "What does it mean to be a surrogate mother?" and "What would be an appropriate perspective for a surrogate mother to have on her pregnancy?" In response to the objection that such contracts are alienating or dehumanising since they require women to suppress their evolving perspective on their pregnancies, liberal supporters of surrogate motherhood argue that the freedom to contract includes the freedom to enter a contract to bear a child for an infertile couple. After entering the contract the surrogate may not be free to interpret her pregnancy as that of a non-surrogate mother, but there is more than one appropriate way of interpreting one's pregnancy. To restrict or ban surrogacy contracts would be to prohibit women from making other particular interpretations of their pregnancies they may wish to make, requiring them to live up to a culturally constituted image of ideal motherhood. We examine three interpretations of a "surrogate pregnancy" that are implicit in the views and arguments put forward by ethicists, surrogacy agencies, and surrogate mothers themselves. We hope to show that our concern in this regard goes beyond the view that surrogacy contracts deny or suppress the natural, instinctive or conventional interpretation of pregnancy. (+info)