Assisted or Hastened Death: The Healthcare Practitioner’s Dilemma

  •  Rod MacLeod    
  •  Donna Wilson    
  •  Phillipa Malpas    


Assisting or hastening death is a dilemma with many ethical as well as practical issues facing healthcare practitioners in many countries worldwide now. Various arguments for and against assisted dying have been made over time but the call from the public for legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide has never been stronger. While many studies have documented the reluctance of medical and other health professionals to be involved in the practice of assisted dying or euthanasia, there is still much open debate in the public domain. Those who have the most experience of palliative care are strongest in their opposition to assisted death or euthanasia. This paper explores salient practical and ethical considerations for healthcare practitioners associated with assisted death, with a focus on examining the concepts of autonomy for patients and healthcare practitioners. The role of the healthcare practitioner has clearly and undoubtedly changed over time with advances in healthcare practices but the duty of care has not changed. The dilemmas for healthcare practitioners thus who have competent patients requesting hastened death extends far beyond acting within a country’s laws as they go to the very heart of the relationship between the practitioner and patient.

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