Assumptions that patients have the right to die

Posted: September 3rd, 2013

Assumptions that patients have the right to die








Assumptions that patients have the right to die

A good real life situation is that of Christine Busalacchi and Nancy Cruzan. In the case of Christine Busalacchi, she was involved in a car accident on May 29, 1987 where he was left in a persistent vegetable case. In the other situation of Cruzan, she was also involved in an accident where she was left in a persistent vegetable case. The two scenarios are similar, only that Cruzan preferred to die rather than stay a vegetable while Busalacchi did not indicate to anyone.

According to the American law, a mentally sound person has the right to refuse medical attention even if this will lead to death. This includes all artificial treatment methods to support the life of a person. However, the difficult part arises when the patient does not have the ability to communicate his or her own decision like the case of Busalacchi. The dilemma arises as to who is supposed to make the decision and how the decision is made. In the case of Busalacchi, the parents have the right to represent the patient but they do not have the obligation to make the decision. On the other hand, Cruzan’s parents had the right to make the decision because there was proof to indicate that she preferred death than living as a vegetable. Therefore, the law states that the patient has the right to die. The decision is only vested on the patient. However, if the patient is in a vegetable state, the guardian must proof that the patient would have preferred to exercise his or her right in such a situation (Porter, Johnson & Warren, 2005).

Health care professionals do not have a right to give considerations in their course of caring for terminal patients. Additionally, the health care professionals do not have obligation of providing a futile treatment to the patient. This is because according to the laws of the health care professionals like doctors, the main priority is to ensure that the patients are kept alive at all the times. Doctors are obliged to save the lives of people not to facilitate death. This is also applicable to other health care professionals. They are all obliged to save the lives of the patients. For instance, in the two situations, they should not consider their rights to die instead they should consider saving her life (Friend, 2011). Therefore, health care professionals do not have the right or the obligation to consider patients rights to die.

According to the law, family members of a patient to do not have the right or obligation on patient’s right to die. This is because nobody has the power over another person’s life. For this reason, the government does not allow anybody to make decisions for another person involving death. In the case of Busalaccho, the court had a difficult time to make a ruling because the parents do not have the right to make the decision (Shah & Williams, 2003). However, on the case of Cruzan, the court gave the ruling in favor of the parents not because the parents made the decision but because there was prove implying that the patient did not wish to be kept in a vegetable state. It is argued that, there is no evidence proving that Schiavo wanted to die if she was of sound mind in such a situation. Therefore, they should keep her on medical treatment until she dies for natural causes.

Caring and curing for the patient are the most confusing words in the medical treatment of a patient. In the perspective of the medical professionals, their main aim is to offer treatment to the patient as they exercise due care. In this situation, they do not have the right to facilitate death just because they care for somebody who is in pain. On the side of the family, there priority is to care for their patients (Porter, Johnson & Warren, 2005). Therefore, they often feel that it is better to honor patient’s right to die if there is not treatment and he or she is in a lot of pain. However, considering all other factors, curing should be the number one priority.

Ethical principles in relation to patient’s right to die are a great dilemma to the medical profession. In most cases, ethical principles are affected by moral distress. The patient and the guardian they know the moral judgment but they do not have the right to act (Rushton 2012). According to the ethical principles, patients should be allowed to make those decisions that affect their lives. This is based on the respect to anatomy. On the other hand, based on justice, ethical decisions should be made in consideration of those people who are affected by the decisions. Therefore, in the two instances, decision should consider other parties involved and the patient’s life (Rainbow, 2002).



Friend, M., L. (2011). Physician-Assisted Suicide: Death With Dignity? Journal of Nursing Law. 14 (3-4)

Porter, T., Johnson, P. & Warren, N., A. (2005). Bioethical Issues Concerning Death. Critical Care Nursing. 28 (1), 85-92.

Rainbow, C. (2002). Description of Ethical Theories and Principles. Davidson College. Retrieved from:

Rushton, C., H. (2012). The 4A’s to Rise Above Moral Distress. American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

S. Shah & Williams, M., L. (2003). End-of-Life Decision making – Have we got it Right? European Journal of Cancer Care. 12, 212-214.



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