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Disability and Physician-Assisted Suicide, Essay Example

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Individuals with a disability are described as having a physical or mental limitation that serves to restrict major activities of daily living. A disability limits the physical, psychological, emotional and cognitive capacity of the individual. Individuals afflicted with some form of disability usually need help with several activities of daily living that include eating, ambulating, bathing and toileting. Furthermore, a majority of individuals with disability need assistance on crucial activities of daily living that consists of doing household chores, preparation of meals, using the phone, management of medications, management of finances, and in going out of the house.  Having a disability can also lead to feelings of anxiety and even depression, which further leads to low self-esteem. This can affect the individual’s approach towards their illness as they may have no interest in caring for themselves and they may have decreased capacity to learn how to care for themselves.

Today, many individuals who have some form of disability are employed and remain in their current work. In the study of Loprest and Maag (2001), more than fifty percent of individuals with disabilities encountered several difficulties in finding employment. The most common reason cited by disabled individuals is the lack of appropriate jobs for them, as stated by 52% of the interviewees while family responsibilities come in at second place. In another study by Bruyere (2000), disabled persons were asked to rate perceived barriers in terms of employment and work advancement. It was found out that the lack of necessary experience and skills were deemed as the biggest obstacle by disabled employees from both private and public sector. Today, the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 ensures that individuals who have certain limitations are not discriminated against during job application, promotion, compensation, training, firing and other such conditions of employment.

One ethical issue that certainly had an impact is on the topic of physician-assisted suicide. Physician-assisted suicide is legal in some states in the United States, namely: Washington, Oregon, and Montana, and no specific laws exist for the rest of the states, such as in the case of North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Medical Board (2012), “physicians are ethically obligated to follow the wishes of the terminally ill or incurable patient as expressed by and properly documented in a declaration of desire for a natural death” or it is the physician’s prerogative to transfer the care of the patient to another physician. Therefore, the physician may also be subjected to disciplinary action if there is a refusal on his part to accede to the wishes of the patient. It is required that the patient’s wishes must be respected and carried out as providers who do not comply may be subjected to criminal or civil penalties as well as professional disciplinary action. Furthermore, forcing any type of treatment upon the patient also holds the individual civilly liable for assault and battery.

Taking a stand on this issue is very difficult as each case is inherently different from the next one, each individual having his own reasons for requesting an end to their life. Chronic or terminal illness, lack of financial capacity, depression and chronic pain are just some reasons that individuals cite for requesting to end their life. Coming from a medical background, I understand these reasons but my personal upbringing and belief still lead me to question the ethics and morality of this subject. I still believe on the value of life and that as professionals in the medical field, it is our duty to care for individuals and to preserve life. Physicians and other health care providers need to ensure that dialogue between them and patients remain open, and that the principles of pain relief, unnecessary suffering and respect for the patient’s decisions must be foremost.

 

References

Bruyere, S. (2000). Disability Employment Policies and Practices in Private and Federal Sector Organizations. Program on Employment and Disability, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Extension Division

Loprest, P. & Maag, E. (2001). Barriers and Supports for Work among Adults with Disabilities: Results from the NHIS-D. The Urban Institute. Washington DC

North Carolina Medical Board (2012, November). Position Statement: Advance Directives and Patient Autonomy.  Retrieved from http://www.ncmedboard.org/images/uploads/other_pdfs/PS_December2012.pdf

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