Week 8 – Discussion

Discussion Prompt

Select one of the two prompts below to respond to in your initial post this week. You are encouraged to respond to peers that explored the prompt that you did not.

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Prompt #1

About one baby out of every 600 born in the U.S. has Down’s syndrome. Many of these children are born with fatal physical conditions that can cause quite a bit of pain and suffering. For instance, a baby with Down’s syndrome could be born with part of their vital organs missing, intestines might be blocked, and their heart might not pump properly. Surgery is often required for these infants to survive beyond the first few days of life.

Parents must decide whether to allow surgery to save the child, who may end up requiring costly long-term care and services for life or withholding permission thus causing the child to die.

Is it immoral for the parents to withhold surgery? Likewise, is it immoral for the parents to allow the surgery?
Is the assumption that parents will act in the best interest of their child justified?
Morally speaking, would the physician deciding not to operate be tantamount to murder?
Ethicist James Rachels (1975) uses the Baby Does case to illustrate how passive euthanasia can sometimes cause more suffering than active euthanasia. If it is morally permissible for parents to allow their infants to die, should active euthanasia be used instead?
Considering the moral issues related to quality and sanctity of life, the principle of do no harm, and palliative care, are there ever any cases when euthanasia of an infant is morally justified?
(USLOs 8.1, 8.3)

Reference

Rachels, J. (1975). Active and passive euthanasia. New England Journal of Medicine, 292(2), 78-81.

Prompt #2

Ethicist Margaret Battin (1987) suggests that physicians should uphold a patient’s autonomy by informing them about humane methods for ending one’s life. Thus, the principle of autonomy creates a moral obligation for physicians to provide patients (who request it) with information on how to die.

Furthermore, some individuals create suicide kits that are available for purchase through online retailers like Ebay. One in particular, is a 3D-printed pod suicide machine called “Sarco” that fills with gas to end a person’s life.

Should there be limits on freedom of speech when it comes to publicizing methods for killing oneself or others?
Should physicians be the ones to inform patients about “humane” methods for ending their lives?
Some people might argue that suicide attempts are just a cry for help. How can a physician determine if a request for euthanasia is genuine and not just a cry for help?

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