Ethics in Healthcare

The trial, which had great social and political repercussions, was held in the United States, February 25, 1990. American Terri Schiavo fell into a coma due to suffering from cardiac arrest. She was brain dead after suffering hypoxia, although after resuscitation her heart was able to function again. Over the years, Terri was in a vegetative state, that is, showing no signs of consciousness, and her life was supported with an artificial nutrition. In 1994, the medical consultation recognized that the treatment did not work, and hope for the restoration of the patient’s consciousness was not present. In 1998, Terri’s husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo asked the court for permission to disconnect the apparatus of artificial nutrition and let Terri die. But Terri’s parents strongly objected to that (Cohen, 2005). During the lengthy litigation process Michael Schiavo and other witnesses testified that during her lifetime Terri opposed the idea of a vegetative existence. The court examination confirmed that the woman was incurable. February 25, 2005 Judge D. Greer made the final decision to disconnect the artificial nutrition apparatus. However, the Terri Schiavo case entered the political sphere. The U.S. Congress even passed a law authorizing the revision of the case in court. But the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decision of D. Greer. The apparatus, artificially sustaining the life of the patient, was disconnected. On March 31, 2005, in the presence of her husband, Michael, Terri Schiavo died.

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Terri Schiavo case stirred up America and allowed people to look at the issue of euthanasia in a different way. And now, many Americans are trying to capture life at its will in the event of possible circumstances of death. Moreover, in a nationwide discussion of Terri Schiavo case the hypocritical attitude of some American politicians, who tried to prohibit Terri’s possible euthanasia and artificially prolong her life, was revealed. For example Rep. Tom De Lay, an outspoken opponent of euthanasia, in 1988, refused to artificially prolong the life of his father, who was fatally injured in a car accident. U.S. President George W. Bush, being the governor of Texas, signed a law that allows hospital administrators to disable hopelessly ill patients from life supporting devices even over the objections of family members, taking into account, among other things, the financial abilities of patients. The desire of politicians to score points with voters at the expense of human life shows their double standards and lack of principles.

Now that the sovereign rights of the individual again come to the force, the right to die is gaining legitimacy. For more than 10 years, euthanasia has been permitted in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. In the U.S., the states of Oregon and Washington legally permit active euthanasia of patients in the terminal (suicide) stage to alleviate their suffering. However, in most countries “easy death” is banned. Doctors, fearing prosecution, continue to prolong the suffering of desperate patients, even in spite of their pleas. Many luminaries of the world of medicine have long been talking about the need to open special clinics “humane killing”. The famous American doctor D. Kevorkian, known as “Dr. Death” in an attempt to circumvent legal bans on euthanasia, even invented an apparatus for suicide, thus allowing seriously ill patients to exercise their own right to life and the right to die. According to statistics, from 1990 to 1998, about 130 people took advantage of his apparatus for suicide.


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Euthanasia is an easy, painless death. This term was first used in the XVII century by English philosopher Francis Bacon to refer to a quick and peaceful death. Euthanasia can be divided into passive and active. Active means any action for death, such as the consumption by a man of a lethal dose of the potent drug. Passive indicates the same omission, refusal of further assistance, such as medical or termination of resuscitation, which results in natural death.

In contrast to the term, the idea of euthanasia is very old. Since ancient times, the community debate about its validity has not stopped. Supporters of euthanasia insist on the sacred right of the individual not only to life but also to voluntary death. Opponents of this object that only God has the right to deprive someone of their life. A person is not free to take life away, as they “do not know the Divine Providence.” On this issue, much controversy is constantly breaking out among physicians, psychologists, religious leaders, lawyers, and politicians. However, there is no clear answer to the question about the justification of euthanasia or inadmissibility.

Since ancient times, traditional medical ethics has held a negative attitude towards euthanasia. There are the words in the Hippocratic Oath, which doctors have been using for more than one hundred years already: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.” However, the direction of philosophical thought developed in the opposite direction. Giving priority to the interests of the individual, his/her rights and freedoms, it is logical to conclude that the right to die is the same inalienable right as the right to life. From the beginning of XX century to the Second World War, the idea of euthanasia was widespread in several European countries. However, the actions of the Nazis, to adapt to the ideology of eugenics pureblood race first, and then euthanized, and killed thousands of people in gas chambers permanently discredited not only the idea of a painless death, but even the very term. Although reasonable people understand that the crimes of the Nazis did not have any relation to euthanasia, a negative attitude to everything connected to it remained in the community for a long time. Nevertheless, in today’s world, the idea of ??a quick and peaceful death for seriously ill patients is gaining more and more supporters. It is happening because of several high-profile lawsuits, including the Terri Schiavo case, which had the greatest public outcry.

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In 2005, the case reached its climax. Michael came to the court of the State of Florida and received a permit for the third and, as he hoped, the last time to turn off the life support system of Terri; on March 18, doctors had to remove the feeding tube. Parents tried to challenge this in the Supreme Court but the court refused to hear the case. Then the case gained momentum. The lawmakers at the federal level intervened the situation, and a wave of the real hysteria rose in the media. Rep. Dave Weldon and Sen. Mel Martinez introduced a bill to parliament, which must prevent the switching off Terri’s apparatus. According to the authors, the future will be able to protect the rights of such patients. “Our Constitution guarantees that no one’s life will not be taken without due process of law, and all are guaranteed equal protection,” said Weldon introducing the bill (Foxnews, n.d.).

A well-known sponsor of projects for the study of stem cells, Robert Herring, was involved in the case as well. He offered Michael Schiavo a million dollars to leave his efforts and give custody to their parents. In this case, Herring did not forget to mention that the stem cells, the research of which he funded despite an extremely negative attitude of the Bush administration, could help restore the function of Terri’s damaged brain. Herring gave him three days to reflect. That could be a real soul transaction. However, Michael refused, saying that he was not guided by financial considerations, but by the desire to do the will of his wife and stop her suffering (Ethic Scoreboard, 2005).

The tension around the situation gradually heated to the 18th of March; even a Vatican representative expressed his opinion that euthanasia is “ruthless murder” (Schmalz, 2005). On March 18, tubes were disconnected for the final time. Human rights activists gathered in the courtyard of the hospital. The protesters even tried to break into the clinic to give Terri a cup of water.

The adopted urgently law, however, did mean nothing. The American judicial system, fortunately, works better than the brains of many, even very high-ranking, officials. The U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly refused the parents a retrial, citing the absolute legality of the decision of the court of Florida, which was based on the conclusion of the whole group of respected medical experts. The fact that the Supreme Court was obliged to consider the situation did not mean that the abuse of a seriously ill woman would continue. This matter of life and death in this case in no way concerned Jeb Bush or Robert Herring, or even George Bush. This is the same privacy, integrity that people are so proud of in the United States. This was a private matter of Michael Schiavo, who was a legal guardian to his wife Terri.

Of course, the woman’ parents’ position is understandable, but this is a case of blind parental love, which did not want to notice anything or anyone around. Without even knowing it, they turned their daughter into a bargaining chip in the game of heterogeneous politicians have made it the object of “hot” news and venue for PR-shares. This once again showed how to use the achievements of democracy in the most that neither is unsightly view.

There were the people who did not miss the opportunity to afford to advertise on someone else’s tragedy. The Schindlers, who lost their heads in grief, were surrounded by all sorts of tight “spokesmen”, “representatives” and “spiritual leaders” among Protestant ministers. The sensation was the appearance of African-American community leader, Pastor Jesse Jackson, in the camp; he is known as a man of liberal beliefs, and suddenly came together with the Conservatives. All of these advisors and mentors convinced the Schindlers that the governor had the authority to stop the “murder.”

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March 26 all legal means to combat exhaustion were spent. Schindlers were left to rely only on the will of Providence. One of the mentors of inconsolable parents, Paul O’Donnell, a Franciscan monk, addressed the demonstrators to remove picket and go home to families and children. At Easter, Terri received the sacrament – a few drops of wine. She departed the world in the morning, 31 March at the hands of her husband (CNN, 2005). According to Michael’s decision the body was cremated. Schindlers opposed, but did not conceive yet another battle, knowing they would lose to guardian.

The Americans are concerned of purely practical side of things in addition to the delineation of powers and the separation of powers, apart from the right to privacy, in addition to the moral and religious issues. The question is how to save yourself from a situation in which Terri Schiavo was. The document, which was adopted on the basis of a life-changing decision, is a living will in the event of a serious illness, in which a patient is unable to clearly express his/her will. However, the case law shows that the presence of such securities may be controversy over its interpretation. In addition, medicine develops, disease, an incurable today, tomorrow it may be treatable.

Proponents of euthanasia talk about the choices that nobody has the right to make bad patients experience severe suffering, that the vegetative existence and pain robs a person of dignity, that the patients themselves seek to put an end to their suffering. However, the main and really unsolvable ethical issue arises in respect of patients who are unable to make their own decisions about how to stop living. Someone else will decide for them, if euthanasia is legalized. This might be doctors, relatives or the authorities. There is no guarantee that their decision will be dictated by humanity or the interests of the patient. After all, we cannot erase from our memory the Nazi program of “healing of the nation” by the mass destruction of feeble-minded, the mentally ill, the disabled, homosexuals, “racially inferior”. Despite all the doubts, I personally would like to have legal recourse of physicians’ assistance at the end of my earthly journey if my final will be painful and hopeless. In case of being in a vegetative condition, I would like to have someone who could make the decision for me without fear of being imprisoned.


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