The question of a physician's involvement in aid in dying (or "assisted suicide") is being debated across the country. This article adopts no one position because its authors hold contrasting views. It aims instead to articulate the strongest arguments in favor of aid in dying and the strongest arguments opposed. It also addresses relevant terminology and reviews the history of its legalization in the United States.
Critics of organ donation after circulatory death (DCD) argue that, even if donors are past the point of autoresuscitation, they have not satisfied the "irreversibility" requirement in the circulatory and respiratory criteria for determining death, since their circulation and respiration could be artificially restored. Thus, removing their vital organs violates the "dead-donor" rule. I defend DCD donation against this criticism. I argue that practical medical-ethical considerations, including respect for do-not-resuscitate orders, support interpreting "irreversibility" to mean permanent cessation of circulation and respiration. Assuming a consciousness-related formulation of human death, I then argue that the loss of circulation and respiration is significant, because it leads to the permanent loss of consciousness and thus to the death of the human person. The DNR request by an organ donor should thus be interpreted to mean "do not restore to consciousness." Finally, I respond to an objection that if "irreversibility" has a medical-ethical meaning, it would entail the absurd possibility that one of two individuals in the same physical state could be alive and the other dead-an implication that some think is inconsistent with understanding death as an objective biological state of the organism. I argue that advances in medical technology have created phenomena that challenge the assumption that human death can be understood in strictly biological terms. I argue that ethical and ontological considerations about our nature bear on the definition and determination of death and thus on the permissibility of DCD.
From the start, I followed the case of Jahi McMath with great interest. In December 2013, she clearly fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for brain death. As a neurologist with a special interest in chronic brain death, I was not surprised that, after she was flown to New Jersey, where she became statutorily resurrected and was treated as a comatose patient, Jahi's condition quickly improved. In 2014, her family reported that she sometimes responded to simple motor commands. I shared the general skepticism regarding these reports, assuming that the family was in denial and was misinterpreting spinal myoclonus (a rapid, involuntary twitch generated by the spinal cord) as volitional. The family had noticed that when Jahi's heart rate was above eighty beats per minute, she was more likely to respond, as though the heart rate reflected some sort of inner level of arousal. So they began to make video recordings. I have been privileged to be entrusted with copies of these recordings, forty-eight of which proved suitable for assessing alleged responsiveness. All have been certified by a forensic video expert as unaltered. The first thing that struck me was that the great majority of the alleged responses were not spinal myoclonus. In fact, they did not resemble any type of spontaneous, involuntary movement described in patients paralyzed from high spinal cord lesions.
Terminal sedation is a medically induced coma from which the patient does not recover. Professional guidelines for palliative care restrict its use to within a few days of death. The law relating to its use in Australia is governed by the law of homicide, assisted suicide and the law of trespass. In this article, I argue that the law in Australia does not justify the restrictions on its use imposed by the professional guidelines, and that, ethically and legally, it can be made available to patients with a terminal disease, those who are likely to suffer serious physical or existential pain by remaining conscious, and for those who refuse food and water. Its use should be regulated to ensure that those asking for it are competent to do so, and that they are suffering from a medical condition that makes life intolerable for them.
BACKGROUND: Multidrug resistant pathogens are a large-scale healthcare issue. In particular, children with life-limiting conditions have a significantly increased risk of multidrug resistant pathogen colonization. Official hygiene requirements recommend children, who are colonized with multidrug resistant pathogens, to be isolated. In the context of pediatric palliative care, such isolation adversely affects the aim of social participation. To overcome this challenge of conflicting interests on a pediatric palliative care inpatient unit, a hygiene concept for patients colonized with multidrug resistant pathogens, called PALLINI, was implemented.
AIM: The aim of this study was to identify the nurses' attitudes and opinions toward PALLINI.
METHODS: Nurses (N = 14) from the pediatric palliative care unit were queried in guideline-oriented interviews. Interviews were analyzed qualitatively by means of content analysis.
RESULTS: The following four categories were identified: (1) safety, (2) effort, (3) quality of care, and (4) participation. All categories demonstrated ambivalence by nursing staff regarding PALLINI. Ambivalence arose from guaranteeing infection control versus noncompliance by the families, additional workload for patients with multidrug resistant pathogens versus lack of resources, impaired relationship with the parents versus enabling better care for the child, as well as enabling some limited contact versus the larger goal of genuine social participation. Despite this, nurses reported the importance of arranging everyday-life for the patients so that they experience as much social participation as possible.
CONCLUSION: The implementation of a new hygiene concept is challenging. Despite positive reception of PALLINI from the nurses, ambivalence remained. Addressing these ambivalences may be critical to best implement the new hygiene concept.
The Op-Ed article in the New York Times (November 4th, 2016), “On Assisted Suicide, Going Beyond Do No Harm” by Haider Javed Warraich provides an articulate and timely plea for more widespread availability and application of physician-assisted dying, or “suicide”, as part of end-of-life (EOL) medical care. While this profound intervention should be considered by physicians and others as an option for those able to express their wishes at the EOL, it must be considered in the context of the ethical principles appropriate for all health care interventions and recognized for its limited role in the overall approach to compassionate care for terminally ill people.
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Avocat au Barreau de Bruxelles, Bernard Mouffe livre une réflexion sur le droit à la mort, qu'il s'agisse de suicide, d'avortement ou d'euthanasie. Il analyse ce qui rassemble ces trois sujets et ce qui les sous-tend.
Much of the public debate around the legalisation of assisted dying remains binary: yes or no. But this is a dangerous oversimplification. Assisted dying laws exist along a continuum, argue Katherine Sleeman and Iain Chalmers
The Australian state of Victoria has become the latest jurisdiction to legalise assisted dying, joining Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and several US states. Although assisted dying remains illegal in the UK, there are signs that the country is inching towards legalisation. For example, in March 2019 the Royal College of Physicians adopted a position of neutrality, and the BMA and Royal College of General Practitioners have both decided to consult their members on whether their official positions should change from opposition.
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L’objectif de ce texte est d’exposer la vision d’un théologien catholique, et professeur émérite en communication et journalisme sur la question de l’accompagnement spirituel des personnes qui demandent une euthanasie.
L’auteur présente sa réflexion personnelle sur l’euthanasie en Belgique et sur son extension aux enfants. En Belgique, un patient adulte peut demander depuis 2002 et à certaines conditions une assistance médicale au décès dénommée euthanasie. Les personnes mineures peuvent faire une démarche similaire depuis 2014. L’euthanasie ne se résume pas à un acte létal. Elle est la conclusion d’un long processus d’accompagnement et d’écoute du malade. La voix du malade devient prépondérante : la loi a permis au malade de rester le sujet et l’acteur de sa vie, y compris quand celle-ci entre dans sa phase terminale. Elle ouvre un espace de discussion et d’information préalable pour permettre aux deux protagonistes, malade et médecin, de rechercher la piste la meilleure à suivre. En pratique, l’euthanasie est un acte qui est le résultat d’une concertation transparente entre le malade et son médecin partagée avec la famille et l’équipe soignante.
L’auteur propose de dépasser l’opposition si totale entre les pro et anti euthanasie. Son questionnement s’écarte volontairement du projet d’écriture d’une loi spécifique sur l’euthanasie, mais propose de donner suite à la brèche qu’avait ouverte la loi Claeys-Leonetti avec la sédation profonde et la suppression de l’obligation de réveil pour consentement. Il suggère ainsi d’étendre sous conditions strictes la sédation terminale à des cas d’euthanasie ou d’assistance au suicide. Au regard de l’extrême minorité des cas de patients atteints d’une maladie incurable mais dont le corps est loin d’être au bout de ses peines et qui demandent comme Anne Bert en son temps une aide médicale à mourir, Philippe Bataille plaide en faveur d’une évolution de la loi française dans le sens de la législation canadienne.
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BACKGROUND: Although euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) in people with psychiatric disorders is relatively rare, the increasing incidence of EAS requests has given rise to public and political debate. This study aimed to explore support of the public and physicians for euthanasia and assisted suicide in people with psychiatric disorders and examine factors associated with acceptance and conceivability of performing EAS in these patients.
METHODS: A survey was distributed amongst a random sample of Dutch 2641 citizens (response 75%) and 3000 physicians (response 52%). Acceptance and conceivability of performing EAS, demographics, health status and professional characteristics were measured. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: Of the general public 53% were of the opinion that people with psychiatric disorders should be eligible for EAS, 15% was opposed to this, and 32% remained neutral. Higher educational level, Dutch ethnicity, and higher urbanization level were associated with higher acceptability of EAS whilst a religious life stance and good health were associated with lower acceptability. The percentage of physicians who considered performing EAS in people with psychiatric disorders conceivable ranged between 20% amongst medical specialists and 47% amongst general practitioners. Having received EAS requests from psychiatric patients before was associated with considering performing EAS conceivable. Being female, religious, medical specialist, or psychiatrist were associated with lower conceivability. The majority (> 65%) of the psychiatrists were of the opinion that it is possible to establish whether a psychiatric patient’s suffering is unbearable and without prospect and whether the request is well-considered.
CONCLUSION: The general public shows more support than opposition as to whether patients suffering from a psychiatric disorder should be eligible for EAS, even though one third of the respondents remained neutral. Physicians' support depends on their specialization; 39% of psychiatrists considered performing EAS in psychiatric patients conceivable. The relatively low conceivability is possibly explained by psychiatric patients often not meeting the eligibility criteria.
Palliative care aims to improve quality of life for people with serious illness and their families. One potential barrier to palliative care uptake is inaccurate knowledge and/or negative beliefs among the general population, which may inhibit early interest in, communication about, and integration of palliative care following subsequent illness diagnosis. We explored knowledge and beliefs about palliative care among the general public using nationally-representative data collected in 2018 as part of the cross-sectional Health Information National Trends Survey. Only individuals who had heard of palliative care (n = 1,162, Mage = 51.8, 64% female) were queried on knowledge and beliefs. We examined whether self-assessed level of awareness of palliative care (i.e., knowing a little vs. enough to explain it) was associated with the relative likelihood of having accurate/positive beliefs, inaccurate/negative beliefs, or responding "don't know" to questions about palliative care. Respondents who indicated knowing a lot about palliative care had more accurate versus inaccurate knowledge than those who knew a little on only two of six items and more positive attitudes on only one of three items. In particular, respondents with greater awareness were equally likely to report that palliative care is the same as hospice and requires stopping other treatments, and equally likely to believe that palliative care means giving up and to associate palliative care with death. Those with higher awareness were less likely than those with lower awareness to respond "don't know," but greater awareness was not necessarily associated with having accurate or positive beliefs about palliative care as opposed to inaccurate or negative beliefs. Thus, even members of the general public who perceived themselves to know a lot about palliative care were often no less likely to report inaccurate knowledge or negative beliefs (versus accurate and positive, respectively). Findings suggest a need to improve awareness and attitudes about palliative care.
Objectives: Discipline of palliative care is still evolving in developed parts of the world while it remains at an infantile stage in Sri Lanka which has not been formally assessed as of today. We aimed at evaluating the level of palliative care knowledge and opinions among young medical graduates. A descriptive cross-sectional study was carried out among pre-residency medical graduates of Sri Lanka through a social media based online survey. The pre-tested questionnaire assessed the level of knowledge on general principles, service organization, clinical management and ethical considerations while it also evaluated their opinions.
Results: Response rate was 35.8% (n = 351). The average score among the respondents was 37.25% [standard deviation (SD) = 11.975]. Specific knowledge on “general principles” was adequate (score = 50%) with an average of 62.61%, SD = 24.5 while “ethics” was observed to be the area with the poorest knowledge (average score = 19.55%, SD = 22). Average scores for “service organization” and “managerial aspects” were 34.54%, SD = 17.6 and 32.26%, SD = 22.3, respectively. The majority (> 90%) believed that de-novo establishment of hospice, hospital and community-based palliative services would sustainably improve holistic patient care. Measures must be taken to optimize basic palliative care knowledge among the undergraduates in view of achieving Universal Health Coverage in the long term.
BACKGROUND: Patients with advanced cancer are increasingly discharged from inpatient settings following focused symptom management admissions. Thromboprophylaxis (TP) is recommended for patients with cancer admitted to acute care settings; less is known about TP use in palliative care (PC) settings. This study explored the opinions of Canadian medical oncologists (MO) and PC physicians regarding the use of TP for inpatients with advanced cancer.
METHODS: A fractional factorial survey designed to evaluate the impact of patient factors (age, clinical setting, reason for admission, pre-admission performance status (Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group; ECOG), and risk of bleeding on anticoagulation) and physician demographics on recommending TP was administered by email to Canadian MO and PC physicians. Each respondent received eight vignettes randomly selected from a set of 32. Hierarchical regression was used to evaluate the odds of prescribing TP adjusted for patient factors.
RESULTS: 606 MO and 491 PC physicians were surveyed; response rates were 11.1% and 15.0%, respectively. MO were predominantly male (59.7%); PC female (60.3%); most worked in academic environments (90.3% MO; 73.9% PC). Multivariable hierarchical logistic regression demonstrated that all patient factors except age were associated with prescribing TP (ORs range: from 1.34 (95% CI 1.01 to 1.77) for good ECOG, to 2.53 (95% CI 1.9 to 3.37), for reversible reason for admission). Controlling for these factors, medical specialty was independently associated with recommending TP (OR for MO 2.09 (95% CI 1.56 to 2.8)).
CONCLUSIONS: MO have higher odds of recommending TP for inpatients with advanced cancer than PC physicians. Further research exploring the drivers of these differing practices is warranted.
Après avoir présenté les arguments pour et contre la légalisation de l'euthanasie, l'auteur pointe la nécessité de ne pas imposer son opinion et de respecter les valeurs et les convictions religieuses et morales de chacun. Il mentionne également les nouvelles problématiques qui s'ajoutent à ce débat : l'euthanasie des mineurs, des malades psychiatriques et des personnes démentes.
Background: Critical care consensus groups recommend providing bereavement support; however, little is known about what cardiac intensive care patients' families would find useful and beneficial in their grieving process.
Aim and objectives: To describe cardiac intensive care unit (ICU) patients' families' opinions on six common components of a bereavement programme.
Design: Qualitative, exploratory and descriptive.
Methods: Families were recruited from a cardiac ICU 13-15 months after their loved one's death. Families were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire. The research team analysed interview transcripts to assess and categorize families' opinions on six bereavement components.
RESULTS: Twelve family members were interviewed. Most were female (n = 8, 67%), spouses (n = 10, 83%) and white (n = 10, 83%), with a mean age (SD) of 58.4 years (16.7). Families' overall opinions of the bereavement brochure were positive, stating it was helpful in providing information about the grieving process. Families described the sympathy card as "meaningful" and "touching," although they rated it neutral in providing comfort. Most participants felt that a follow-up telephone call was unnecessary except to answer lingering questions they had. Many participants favoured the unit offering counselling services because they found therapy helpful in their grieving process. Participants had mixed feelings about a memory box; they believed it was an individual preference and should be handled in a sensitive manner. Most would not have attended a memorial service if offered because of traffic, distance, concerns about stressful feelings on returning to the hospital or because they already honoured their loved ones through a personalized memorial service.
Conclusions: Participants varied in their opinions about what bereavement services may be useful; however, this study provides insight about services that cardiac critical care units may consider when adding bereavement support.
Relevance to clinical practice: Family perspectives about bereavement needs can help structure services offered by critical care units.
The consideration of laypeople’s views of conditions under which euthanasia is justifiable is important for policy decisions. In an online survey of US respondents, we examined how patient’s symptoms influence justifiability of euthanasia. Euthanasia was judged more justifiable for conditions associated with physical suffering and negative impact on other people. The weight given to physical suffering and negative impact on others in evaluation of justifiability of euthanasia also differed based on personal characteristics. The results suggest that public discourse about medical assistance in dying should take into account differences in its perceived justifiability for patients with different conditions.
Huit membres du personnel soignant belge échangent leurs point de vue sur la fin de vie, les soins palliatifs et la pratique de l'euthanasie. Ils évoquent leur expérience quotidienne et rendent compte de la complexité de certaines situations.
Supportive and palliative care at the end of life (EOL) is a core component of health systems. Providing care at the EOL may require the interaction of several care providers working in different settings including nursing homes, home care, hospices, and hospitals. This work aims to (a) provide evidence on the performance of EOL care for cancer patients across healthcare organizations, with a focus on the place of care, aggressive treatments, opioids, and the place of death and (b) analyze factors associated with dying in hospital. A population-based retrospective study was performed using administrative data from Tuscany region (Italy). Thirteen thousand sixty-six cancer patients who died in 2016 were considered. There is a marked variability in EOL care within regional areas, with the multilevel logistic regression highlighting a greater likelihood of dying in hospital for patients who were admitted to intensive care units or previously hospitalized. There is a lower probability of dying in acute care setting for patients assisted in hospices and in both hospital and hospices/home care and for patients treated with opioids. This intraregional variation highlights the need to improve EOL planning and rethink the delivery of supportive/palliative care. Further investigations on the preferences of patients may lead to more understanding.