Limits to Life-Sustaining Treatment

4. Incurable illness

Lou Gherig's disease brings a gradual physical decline until one reaches a state of total physical dependence. Alzheimer's disease brings a gradual mental deterioration and eventual physical dependence. Neither of these diseases can be cured - and not much is known about how to slow the decline of either.

Many people find the prospect of complete dependence abhorrent. A patient might reach a stage in this decline where he decides he does not want to continue to live.

Should patients be allowed to specify a "Do Not Resuscitate" order so that they would not be revived if their heart should stop when they reach this stage?

Should they be permitted to take more active measures to end a state of life that they find abhorrent?

Should they be permitted to ask others to promise in advance that they will end their life for them at this point?

Created by Glenn C. Graber
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