In this case, it is important to understand the ethical implications of prescribing pills. Euthanasia is indeed a very big issue that must ultimately be resolved sooner than later. There has been so much media attention regarding euthanasia in general and not just child euthanasia in the past few decades. From Jack Kevorkian to Terry Schiavo, the question of whether or not a person has the right to die has been posed. In most American states, there are specific laws that have been enacted that prohibit the taking of one’s own life and there have also been many laws against assisted suicide.
These laws charge many particular offenses such as charging those who would assist with suicide with manslaughter or attempted murder. The question that remains to be resolved is whether or not such a position on Euthanasia is a tenable one. From a legal perspective, the issue is pretty clear. It mainly revolves on the right to decide when a person should live or die. The problem that arises from this situation, however, is that there is a specific provision in the United States Constitution that guarantees the people’s right to life (liberty and property).
Since there has been no pertinent Supreme Court decision on this matter in the prevailing body of jurisprudence, there is no real guideline that can be followed. The legal opinion on this matter would then have to be the decision of the Pinellas County Circuit Court which eventually decided to have the feeding-tube removed based on the evidence that Terri would not have wanted to exist in such a condition. It is axiomatic in law that the courts always hesitate to decide cases such as these for the reason that the right to life is personal and cannot be transferred to another, even if that person is the legal guardian.
In granting the petition of Michael Schiavo, the court crossed this traditional boundary and justified it by saying that it was not so much that Michael Schiavo wanted such but that it was actually Terri Schiavo who decided. As such, the rule of law must be respected in this point and as shown, it has indeed prevailed. In this case, however, there is no such law or legal decision but rather the matter of ethics. The situation is much more different from an ethical point of view, especially when one considers the code of ethics that bind physicians.
The relevant code on this matter is the principle that the exercise of professional judgment should always be in the best interests of the patients and the general public. This means that when considering whether or not a patient is to be allowed to kill himself with the assistance of the physician the welfare of the patient and the family must be considered. The responsibility that the Code of Ethics requires is a direct one for a physician. The covered personnel are professionally accountable for their practice.
This means that they are responsible for all acts of omissions that occur in the practice. This even holds true regardless of the advice or the directions of the manager or any other professional. All professional actions must be made in light of the principles outlined under the code of ethics and physician must be ready to justify all actions if asked to do so. As such, the doctor should not be allowed to give the pills because such would be considered as assisting in suicide and also unethical.
The first reason is that no person or government for that matter has the intrinsic right to determine whether or not a person should live or die. While it may certainly be argued that convicts on death row have had their rights violated, a closer inspection will reveal that it is not an analogous circumstance. In the case at hand, James is not a convict but an innocent victim. As such, despite his arguably depressed and suicidal state, the decision to end his life by prescribing pills that will allow him to die is not a decision within the power of any court or government.
It has also been argued that correlative to the right to live is the right to decide when to die. It is interesting to point out that suicide or even attempted suicide is not a crime that is punishable under Criminal law. Be that as it may, however, it does not necessarily mean that even if there was a living will or testament that expresses the desire to be given pills should always be honored by the courts. Such would be an act that ignores the intrinsic value of life and the inviolable dignity of the person.
From the perspective of health law and the medical profession, the fact that there exist guidelines and regulations for cases such as James means that the sanctity of life is also respected. Physicians and Doctors, while given the power to save lives, have not been given the power to take lives. It is a totally different matter when it comes to administering medical treatment and to refuse to administer treatment because of the perceived futility of such act.
The decision on the right to medical treatment or to death is not within the power of courts; such an act is not for one to decide. There is no way to justify the termination of a person’s life even if it means ending one’s suffering. Men was never designated as Gods and given the power to determine whether or not a person deserves to live or die. Nobody has the right to make that choice. The only person who can probably make that choice is in some place where He cannot be reached for a comment on the matter.