Med i cal Eth ics and Legal Issues
In the realm of dying and death, much of what we say and do with one another comes from our values. One of the areas of our life which seems to cause us such guilt is that in the face of death our fear conquers our values. We say and do things which we do not value and, if could backtrack in time, would not say or do again. A good time to examine your values is now so that you don’t have to test them when the time arrives. One very important question to ask might be, “Is killing oneself in the face of terminal disease acceptable to me?” One of the most pressing questions of value we have to face in modern technological societies is what to do about the advances in technology that can extend life. Developments in medicine have made it possible to prolong the lives of those who would have previously died more quickly. What we now call “heroic measures” can continue biological life-even in the absence of what might be called psychological life. Along with the fact that our society has a higher percentage of aged individuals suffering from chronic illness, proposes bioethical dilemmas for those in the health care fields. The possibility of the extension of life with new technology creates problems such as whether or not to issue “Do Not Resuscitate” orders; to discontinue artificial life and feeding supports; or to forego, withdraw, or terminate treatment. There are concerns about self-determination, informed consent, confidentiality, dignity, and respect. Specific issues surround the care of terminally ill patients, such as “What should the dying patient be told?” and “When, if ever, is it acceptable to assist a dying patient to die?” Is this something we wish to have happen? To our loved ones or to ourselves? These questions of morality have become critical as technological advances force decisions on us we have never had to face before.