One of our most poignant areas of research is palliative care - providing care to alleviate suffering,
often used in end-of-life care. I just ran across this abstract (and accompanying podcast) by Ryan R. Nash, MD, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Nash states, "Some in the movement have changed the responsibility of a physician from caring for the patient to eliminating a patient’s suffering. This new proposed responsibility demands success that is not possible without a willingness to render a patient unconscious or to cause their death."
What do you think? Is it wrong to make a patient unconscious if it is the only way to alleviate someone's intractable suffering? Is suffering a part of the dying process that we should just accept, even if it seems unbearable?
Click here for Nash's 15-minute audio podcast from the 2010 annual Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity conference:
Abstract: The palliative and hospice movement have helped ensure quality care for patients with advanced and terminal illness. What began as a nursing led, volunteer run service for the dying has moved to the health industry and to the academy. This good movement is growing in its scope and ability. However, with this growth has come an ethical challenge to the limits of medical therapy directed to relieve the suffering of a dying patient. Some in the movement have changed the responsibility of a physician from caring for the patient to eliminating a patient’s suffering. This new proposed responsibility demands success that is not possible without a willingness to render a patient unconscious or to cause their death. This presentation will address how changing definitions of death, institutionalization of death, dualistic anthropology, and this new responsibility of medicine can encourage care beyond therapy to intentional sedation and assisted death. Corrected definitions and processes will be offered that will encourage responsible care of patients without violating accepted ethical standards.