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Euthanasia Is Legally, Morally And Ethically Unacceptable. Discuss. Foundation In Nursing Essay For Law/Ethics Module

2827 words - 12 pages

Euthanasia is legally, morally and ethically unacceptable. Discuss.The word Euthanasia is derived from the Greek words eu (Well) and thanatos (Death), and according to Johnstone (1994) was used to describe the spiritual state of an individual who is close to death. The word has become corrupted over time, and now is taken to mean the deliberate ending of a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. The concept of euthanasia, as we now it today, can be traced back to circa 400 BC, where ancient medical circles regarded it a major crime, with, according to Johnstone, Plato suggesting that any physician who attempted such an action should be punished by death.In more recent times involuntary ...view middle of the document...

The objective of this essay is to explore the concept of euthanasia and its ramifications with particular respect to the nursing profession.In the United Kingdom, as in most other countries, euthanasia is illegal. While the taking of one's own life is legal under the Suicide Act (1961), section 2 of the same act views the assisting of an individual to commit suicide as an offence of murder or manslaughter, and is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. However, it is noted by Katz & Sidell (1994) that professional people are less likely to be convicted than lay persons, and until the conviction of Dr. Cox (R v Cox [1992] 12 BMLR 38), no Britishdoctor had ever been found guilty. The law would seem to be at variance with public opinion in the UK , where surveys consistently show about 75% of the populace in favour of euthanasia (Katz & Sidell 1994). In contrast with the United Kingdom, a more liberal legal view of euthanasia is taken, in practice, in the Netherlands where, note Katz and Sidell (1994), a doctor who 'assists' death at the specific request of the patient will not be punished if certain criteria are fulfilled (see box below), and although it remains illegal, has been decriminalised so long as the criteria are met.Although the case of R v Cox [1992] resulted in a guilty verdict, it is interesting to note that Cox was neither imprisoned nor struck off the medical register. This could be interpreted as approaching the Dutch position, but without official recognition. The UK law regarding euthanasia is not totally clear, as while Active Euthanasia, where the intention is to end a persons life, is strictly illegal, a far more permissive view is taken of Passive Euthanasia, whereby death occurs as a "side effect" of treatment or non treatment of the patient. This is illustrated in the case of Bland V Airedale NHS Trust [1993] where it was proposed to discontinue feeding Tony Bland, a victim of the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, and allowing him to die. Eventually, after heated debate the judge ruled in favour of allowing Tony Bland to die.The UKCC code of conduct does not serve to clarify the position of nurses in respect to either passive of active euthanasia. According to the Code of Professional Conduct clauses 1 & 2, nurses should"act always in such a manner as to promote and safeguard the interests and well-being of patients and clients" UKCC (1992)and"ensure that no action or omission on your part, or within your sphere of responsibility, is detrimental to the interests, condition or safety of patients and clients" UKCC (1992)These tend to support the official legal position that euthanasia is unacceptable.However, in the case of voluntary euthanasia (at the patients request), these two clauses could be argued to be in contention with clause 7 which states that nurses should"recognise and respect the uniqueness and dignity of each patient and client, and respond to their need for care, irrespective of their ethnic origin,...

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