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Old 07-19-2006, 07:46 PM   #1
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Is Mercy Killing Ever Appropriate?

Ethicists: No Way to Justify Mercy Deaths

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Despite horrific medical conditions including triple-digit temperatures, no electricity and useless lifesaving equipment, ethicists and even some doctors caught in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath say there's no way to justify killing a sick or dying patient.

"You've got at best mercy and panic, but that doesn't add up to an excusable homicide," said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan.

No one knows if that happened in New Orleans, but a doctor and two nurses were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder charges. They are accused of giving fatal doses of morphine and a sedative to four patients stranded at a New Orleans hospital after the catastrophic storm last August.

The worst-case scenario would be if the doctors "tried to save themselves and didn't want to feel guilty leaving the patients behind and killed them," he said.

The best-case scenario, he said, would be if the accused "believed all possibility of maintaining people on technology has come to an end, you're out of power and your battery power is running out and you say, 'I can't let these people suffer.'"

"Under American law, neither scenario would be excusable," Caplan said.
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Old 07-19-2006, 07:48 PM   #2
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"Under American law, neither scenario would be excusable," Caplan said.
This fact alone is generally why people have never had to ask themselves that question and answer it.

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Old 07-20-2006, 10:51 AM   #3
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Is the scope of this thread Mercy killing in general? or in this specific case ?
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Old 07-20-2006, 11:19 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by Arun V
Is the scope of this thread Mercy killing in general? or in this specific case ?
Any way you choose to go. This wasn't a legal analysis thread, but one prompted by the comments of an ethicist.
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Old 07-20-2006, 07:19 PM   #5
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I think mercy killing is the right think to do , gives you some dignity.
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Old 07-21-2006, 03:30 AM   #6
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I definitely support euthanasia on a logical basis - people have the right to determine the time and nature of their death if they want to, mercy killing like this treads a much murkier area - I will say that if death is a certainty and the situation is extreme then I don't feel it is morally wrong.
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Old 07-21-2006, 05:01 AM   #7
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I support euthanasia on a case by case issue. If a person is terminally ill, or brain dead, or unwilling to live their life a vegetable or whatever, then they should be able to go however they want.

I am against people making desicions for their next of kin suc as 'even though he said he never wanted to be a vegetable i'm going to keep him in a bed dribbling all day with his mind gone for 20 years just so i can feel better' is abhorant.

But if this is true about New Orleans, those people commited second degree murder and should be tried under the legal system. No one should be allowed to say when someone dies (this is why im also against the death penalty!)
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Old 07-21-2006, 09:09 AM   #8
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I started a thread about the NOLA situation a few days ago, no one seemed interested.

With all the facts I know so far, no way in hell would I call what those doctors did a "mercy killing". It seems like a killing for convenience purposes. If those were my relatives in that hospital, I'd rather they died because of the hurricane than because of what those doctors did, given what I know so far. Maybe other facts would make me change my mind, but facts-not what that doctor and the nurses might be saying to cover their backsides.
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Old 07-21-2006, 09:13 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by dazzlingamy


I am against people making desicions for their next of kin suc as 'even though he said he never wanted to be a vegetable i'm going to keep him in a bed dribbling all day with his mind gone for 20 years just so i can feel better' is abhorant.
What if it was signed in writing? I've made it very clear to my fiance that I don't want to be a vegetable and I do want to donate my organs. Someday, I'll put it in writing so that in the event it happens, my family does not have to deal with a decision like that on top of their grief.
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Old 07-22-2006, 11:43 PM   #10
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First post in this forum and it's a doozie


I’ve mulled this question over in the past week and asked everyone from our Palliative Care RN, and other critical care Doctors and Nurses their feelings on the matter. The overwhelming consensus is that, while what the medical staff in New Orleans did was unethical,unlawful, and should be punished in a court of law - they could understand where such a decison could have been made. No power, no oxygen, no IV medications, no labs, no x-rays, no ventilators, or source of food for those patients who cannot survive without massive amount of support would be a dire situation. Most of the patients in that ICU I work in are on such a delicate balance medication, ventilator support, interventions made from interpreting lab date that if one of those pieces were missing from the equation they would not live very long. In the event of Katrina all of these interventions were missing. Just this week the St. Louis has damaging storms that knocked out the power in several areas of the city including some hospitals and nursing homes. My hospital and others that had power were inundated with and overflow of critical ill patients that would not had survived for every long without support. It was a hellish week that made me see just a small piece of what it must have been like in the aftermath of Katrina.

Another unfortunate aftereffect of this story being all over that news right now is that the strides that have been made in palliative care have taken a backslide. In the unit I work in we will do everything possible to keep a person alive but in some cases, no matter how hard we try, our effects are futile. In medicine we can keep a body alive for a very long time but after awhile it becomes quantity verses quality of life. I understand this sounds crass and uncaring from a non-medical point of view but when you are the bedside nurse of a patient that you know is never going to get any better and all they know is suffering and confusion it takes a toll. My whole reason working in critical care is I love to help heal patients - weekends, nights, holidays, storms - I’ll work them all for that one save. It is the ones you know that will never leave the hospital that hurt you the most. I took care of one man last year for 6 months supporting his organ systems until finally God intervened and ended his suffering.

I was taking care of a patient whose family that decided that they wanted to withdraw support after 3 months of intensive care treatment. We routinely administer Ativan and morphine to these patients after they have been extubated (the ventilator has been removed) to make the patient more comfortable in the dying process. This time the family stopped me before I could give the Morphine when the patient was in visible distress saying that I was “killing her.” I explained that the infection in her body was what was ultimately killing her - all I was doing was making her comfortable. The family, however, was amendment that this poor woman was not going to be “killed” by morphine no matter what any of the critical care team said . That fact that I know she died suffering just infuriates me to no end. I also hate the term "pulling the plug" but that is for another case.

I think that medical staff in New Orleans needs to be reprimanded but I cannot even imagine walking in their shoes and what kind of horrors they dealt with. Would I have done the same thing? That would big NO but I would have most certainly given those patients medications to help ease their pain in the absence of not being able to do anything else. My main issue is that there needs to be more information in the news media on end of life care and the myths that surround it. It is NOT mercy killing. However, because of the amount of media coverage this case is getting, the general public’s misconception of the concept has deepened .
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Old 07-22-2006, 11:47 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic


What if it was signed in writing? I've made it very clear to my fiance that I don't want to be a vegetable and I do want to donate my organs. Someday, I'll put it in writing so that in the event it happens, my family does not have to deal with a decision like that on top of their grief.
That would not be considered euthanasia in the first place. Refusing medical treatment or setting a boundary with respect to how much treatment you want, or removing life support is not considered euthanasia or mercy killing.

I do support euthanasia, but it would have to be very tightly controlled and regulated within the legal system and so on.
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Old 07-22-2006, 11:59 PM   #12
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At first when I heard about this, I immediately thought that these medical professionals should be punished as much as the law would allow, but after some thought I'm not so sure they should even lose their license. Physicians take an oath "to do no harm" and this was clearly violated, but there were extreme circumstances. I highly doubt that they came to this decision quickly or without much thought. They had no idea when help was coming or if it was coming at all. At a certain point, these people had to start worrying about themselves - it's simply human nature. Medical professionals are humans too even though some people will only allow for perfection. If anything, the situation further exemplifies the breakdown of an effective emergency response to Katrina. Put yourself in the physician's shoes, would you leave them to suffer a painful death or choose the option they took. Either way, you as the medical professional would have to live with the consequences - which all suck.
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Old 07-23-2006, 01:03 PM   #13
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Since you asked, I'm giving my personal opinion.

There is no such thing as a mercy killing - no one but G-d has the right to end a person's life.

In my opinion Euthanasia is murder.
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Old 07-23-2006, 04:48 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by AchtungBono


There is no such thing as a mercy killing - no one but G-d has the right to end a person's life.

a lot of people share this opinion.

One question, I always have is:

What if someone passed on because their heart stopped
and then people intervene and try and stop the natural death (G-d ending a person's life).

Is the CPR, electric shocking to restart the heart going against G-d?
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Old 07-23-2006, 05:25 PM   #15
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My thinking on this is...if the person has a terminal illness and is of sound mind...I don't know if i have a problem with it

Sometimes I think we have to live with the idea that people may make a decision we dont agree with. But it is their decision to make. I feel like a person should have the right to choose death in the case of terminal disease.


If G-d ( as deep puts it) doesn't approve. Well then the consequences will affect that individual. I some times feel like we infringe too much on personal choice.
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