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Palliative Options of Last Resort

Palliative Options of Last Resort Palliative care is generally agreed to be the standard of care for the dying, but there remain some patients for whom intolerable suffering persists. In the face of ethical and legal controversy about the acceptability of physicianassisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia, voluntarily stopping eating and drinking and terminal sedation have been proposed as ethically superior responses of last resort that do not require changes in professional standards or the law. The clinical and ethical differences and similarities between these 4 practices are critically compared in light of the doctrine of double effect, the active/ passive distinction, patient voluntariness, proportionality between risks and benefits, and the physician's potential conflict of duties. Terminal sedation and voluntarily stopping eating and drinking would allow clinicians to remain responsive to a wide range of patient suffering, but they are ethically and clinically more complex and closer to physician-assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia than is ordinarily acknowledged. Safeguards are presented for any medical action that may hasten death, including determining that palliative care is ineffective, obtaining informed consent, ensuring diagnostic and prognostic clarity, obtaining an independent second opinion, and implementing reporting and monitoring processes. Explicit public policy about which of these practices are permissible would reassure the many patients who fear a bad death in their future and allow for a predictable response for the few whose suffering becomes intolerable in spite of optimal palliative care. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png JAMA American Medical Association

Palliative Options of Last Resort

JAMA , Volume 278 (23) – Dec 17, 1997

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Publisher
American Medical Association
Copyright
Copyright © 1997 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.
ISSN
0098-7484
eISSN
1538-3598
DOI
10.1001/jama.1997.03550230075041
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Palliative care is generally agreed to be the standard of care for the dying, but there remain some patients for whom intolerable suffering persists. In the face of ethical and legal controversy about the acceptability of physicianassisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia, voluntarily stopping eating and drinking and terminal sedation have been proposed as ethically superior responses of last resort that do not require changes in professional standards or the law. The clinical and ethical differences and similarities between these 4 practices are critically compared in light of the doctrine of double effect, the active/ passive distinction, patient voluntariness, proportionality between risks and benefits, and the physician's potential conflict of duties. Terminal sedation and voluntarily stopping eating and drinking would allow clinicians to remain responsive to a wide range of patient suffering, but they are ethically and clinically more complex and closer to physician-assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia than is ordinarily acknowledged. Safeguards are presented for any medical action that may hasten death, including determining that palliative care is ineffective, obtaining informed consent, ensuring diagnostic and prognostic clarity, obtaining an independent second opinion, and implementing reporting and monitoring processes. Explicit public policy about which of these practices are permissible would reassure the many patients who fear a bad death in their future and allow for a predictable response for the few whose suffering becomes intolerable in spite of optimal palliative care.

Journal

JAMAAmerican Medical Association

Published: Dec 17, 1997

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