Limits to Life-Sustaining Treatment

2. Terminal stage of terminal illness

The outcome is inevitable. It is clear that the patient will not survive more than a few more hours - perhaps a day or two at the very most. In hospital parlance, he is "going down the tubes." He is in excruciating pain that cannot be totally controlled by safe doses of pain medications. The patient is conscious; and, between screams of pain, he begs you to give him a dose of morphine that will dull his pain. But you know that an effective dose is likely to kill him by depressing his respiration.

Would you consider doing it?

It seems cruel to refuse. Death is inevitable anyway - you are not going to change the outcome by more than a few hours; and you have it in your power to spare him agony during his last moments. What is to be gained by prolonging his agony?

Does it make a difference if you must do something more active than the "double effect" euthanasia described here? Why or why not?

Created by Glenn C. Graber
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