Legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon--the first year's experience.
BACKGROUND AND METHODS: On October 27, 1997, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide. We collected data on all terminally ill Oregon residents who received prescriptions for lethal medications under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and who died in 1998. The data were obtained from physicians' reports, death certificates, and interviews with physicians. We compared persons who took lethal medications prescribed under the act with those who died from similar illnesses but did not receive prescriptions for lethal medications. RESULTS: Information on 23 persons who received prescriptions for lethal medications was reported to the Oregon Health Division; 15 died after taking the lethal medications, 6 died from underlying illnesses, and 2 were alive as of January 1, 1999. The median age of the 15 patients who died after taking lethal medications was 69 years; 8 were male, and all 15 were white. Thirteen of the 15 patients had cancer. The case patients and controls were similar with regard to sex, race, urban or rural residence, level of education, health insurance coverage, and hospice enrollment. No case patients or controls expressed concern about the financial impact of their illness. One case patient and 15 controls expressed concern about inadequate control of pain (P=0.10). The case patients were more likely than the controls to have never married (P=0.04) and were more likely to be concerned about loss of autonomy due to illness (P=0.01) and loss of control of bodily functions (P=0.02). At death, 21 percent of the case patients and 84 percent of the controls were completely disabled (P<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: During the first year of legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, the decision to request and use a prescription for lethal medication was associated with concern about loss of autonomy or control of bodily functions, not with fear of intractable pain or concern about financial loss. In addition, we found that the choice of physician-assisted suicide was not associated with level of education or health insurance coverage. (+info)
Assessment of competence to complete advance directives: validation of a patient centred approach.
OBJECTIVE: To develop a patient centred approach for the assessment of competence to complete advance directives ("living wills") of elderly people with cognitive impairment. DESIGN: Semistructured interviews. SETTING: Oxfordshire. SUBJECTS: 50 elderly volunteers living in the community, and 50 patients with dementia on first referral from primary care. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Psychometric properties of competence assessment. RESULTS: This patient centred approach for assessing competence to complete advance directives can discriminate between elderly persons living in the community and elderly patients with dementia. The procedure has good interrater (r=0.95) and test-retest (r=0.97) reliability. Validity was examined by relating this approach with a global assessment of competence to complete an advance directive made by two of us (both specialising in old age psychiatry). The data were also used to determine the best threshold score for discriminating between those competent and those incompetent to complete an advance directive. CONCLUSION: A patient centred approach to assess competence to complete advance directives can be reliably and validly used in routine clinical practice. (+info)
Slippery slopes in flat countries--a response.
In response to the paper by Keown and Jochemsen in which the latest empirical data concerning euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions in the Netherlands is discussed, this paper discusses three points. The use of euthanasia in cases in which palliative care was a viable alternative may be taken as proof of a slippery slope. However, it could also be interpreted as an indication of a shift towards more autonomy-based end-of-life decisions. The cases of non-voluntary euthanasia are a serious problem in the Netherlands and they are only rarely justifiable. However, they do not prove the existence of a slippery slope. Persuading the physician to bring euthanasia cases to the knowledge of the authorities is a problem of any euthanasia policy. The Dutch notification procedure has recently been changed to reduce the underreporting of cases. However, many questions remain. (+info)
Relationships between various attitudes towards self-determination in health care with special reference to an advance directive.
OBJECTIVES: The subject of patient self-determination in health care has gained broad interest because of the increasing number of incompetent patients. In an attempt to solve the problems related to doctors' decision making in such circumstances, advance directives have been developed. The purpose of this study was to examine relationships between public attitudes towards patient autonomy and advance directives. SUBJECTS AND MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: A stratified random sample of 600 adults in northern Sweden was surveyed by a questionnaire with a response rate of 78.2%. The subjects were asked about their wish for control of their health care, their concerns about health care, their treatment preferences in a life-threatening situation (both reversible and irreversible), and their attitudes towards the application of advance directives. RESULTS: Numerous relationships between various aspects of self-determination in health care (desire for control, fears of over-treatment, and choice of treatment level) in general and advance directives, in particular, were found. Those who wanted to have a say in their health care (about 94%) also mainly supported the use of an advance directive. CONCLUSIONS: The fact that almost 30% of the respondents were undecided concerning their personal use of advance directives points to a lack of knowledge and to the necessity of education of the public on these issues. (+info)
To tell the truth: disclosing the incentives and limits of managed care.
As managed care becomes more prevalent in the United States, concerns have arisen over the business practices of managed care companies. A particular concern is whether patients should be made aware of the financial incentives and treatment limits of their healthcare plan. At present, managed care organizations are not legally required to make such disclosures. However, such disclosures would be advisable for reasons of ethical fidelity, contractual clarity, and practical prudence. Physicians themselves may also have a fiduciary responsibility to discuss incentives and limits with their patients. Once the decision to disclose has been made, the managed care organization must draft a document that explains, clearly and honestly, limits of care in the plan and physician incentives that might restrict the care a patient receives. (+info)
Health outcomes and managed care: discussing the hidden issues.
Too often the debate over health outcomes and managed care has glossed over a series of complex social, political, and ethical issues. Exciting advances in outcomes research have raised hopes for logical medical reform. However, science alone will not optimize our patients' health, since value judgements are necessary and integral parts of attempts to improve health outcomes within managed care organizations. Therefore, to form healthcare policy that is both fair and efficient, we must examine the fundamental values and ethical concerns that are imbedded in our efforts to shape care. We must openly discuss the hidden issues including: (1) trade-offs between standardization of care and provider-patient autonomy; (2) effects of financial incentives on physicians' professionalism; (3) opportunity costs inherent in the design of insurance plans; (4) responsibilities of managed care plans for the health of the public; (5) judicious and valid uses of data systems; and (6) the politics of uncertainty. (+info)
Should we clone human beings? Cloning as a source of tissue for transplantation.
The most publicly justifiable application of human cloning, if there is one at all, is to provide self-compatible cells or tissues for medical use, especially transplantation. Some have argued that this raises no new ethical issues above those raised by any form of embryo experimentation. I argue that this research is less morally problematic than other embryo research. Indeed, it is not merely morally permissible but morally required that we employ cloning to produce embryos or fetuses for the sake of providing cells, tissues or even organs for therapy, followed by abortion of the embryo or fetus. (+info)
Persons and their copies.
Is cloning human beings morally wrong? The basis for the one serious objection to cloning is that, because of what a clone is, clones would have much worse lives than non-clones. I sketch a fragment of moral theory to make sense of the objection. I then outline several ways in which it might be claimed that, because of what a clone is, clones would have much worse lives than non-clones. In particular, I look at various ideas connected with autonomy. I conclude that there is no basis to the claim that, because of what a clone is, clones would have much worse lives than non-clones. I therefore reject the claim that cloning human beings is morally wrong. (+info)