Death with Dignity
Autonomy is a fundamental right. Liberty interests of patients while coping with terminal illness, however, unlike autonomy, are protected under the Constitution as fundamental rights. Advancements in medicine are extending the average life expectancy for adults. The aging of the baby boomer generation is also contributing to the increase in the growing number of the elder population. As society ages, not only do individuals battle terminal illness, but they combat the unanticipated demands on their right to die with dignity. The ability to choose the timing of one’s death is limited to a few states in America. Additionally, there are a few countries now allowing physician assisted suicide. Even with this option, a patient must
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She survived those years with the assistance of a gastric feeding tube. Karen’s tragedy brought awareness to the importance of documenting individual’s end-of-life wishes. A health care directive is helpful in preventing the court system from making life and death decisions, such as in the case of Karen Quinlan. This document ensures a patient’s choices concerning life support are known—should they lapse into a coma. Executing a health care directive can be an example of voluntary passive euthanasia, while Karen Quinlan is an example of involuntary passive euthanasia.
Jack Kevorkian provides a model for active voluntary euthanasia. Kevorkian assisted several people in the act of committing suicide. His patients sought his help in ending their lives to avoid prolonging their existence in an undignified manner. The case that brought infamy to Kevorkian was that of Janet Adkins. Adkins suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and while she was still competent, she sought to end her own life. Many believe that “…when confronted with diseases or injuries that are incurable, untreatable, or poorly managed, patients may seek release from their suffering” (Harmon & Sethi, 2011, p. 355). Although through unconventional means, Janet Adkins’ family was “grateful someone was willing to listen to and help a beloved member of their family” (Stutsman, 2013, p.48). Media attention surrounding Jack Kevorkian, labeled Dr. Death, heightened