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Moral, Ethical and Legal Dilemmas of Suicide Case Study

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Updated: Apr 8th, 2022

Suicide is the act of killing oneself due to some reasons external or internal. It has moral, ethical, and legal implications, that is why it is viewed as unacceptable in the society. However, liberals have presented several arguments that make it acceptable under certain circumstances. Suicide is condemned because of its severe ethical, moral, and legal ramifications to individuals involved and families of the victims.

Several moral, ethical, and legal dilemmas would be encountered when dealing with the terminally ill patient who opts for suicide. Deciding to stop a person from that step or not presents a moral dilemma that is difficult to solve. Since it is a duty of medical practitioners to treat and care for patients, it would be immoral to allow a patient to commit suicide. However, the patient thinks that suicide is the best way to emancipate herself from pain and suffering.

The situation has two possible outcomes: allow the patient kill herself and stop her pain and suffering or prevent her from killing herself and thus advance her misery. The act may be described as moral because it would not cause damage or harm to other people (Devettere, 2010). Moreover, it would reduce distress caused to family members for taking caring of her. On the other hand, it may be immoral because the patient would violate her human right to life, her duties to the society, and cause agony and suffering to her family (Devettere, 2010).

According to David Hume, using suicide to escape from misery is justifiable and ethical (Greenstone & Leviton, 2010). Patient’s sufferings and pain make suicide be viewed as an option to end that misery. The patient is a burden to her family because she relies on family members for help. She feels guilty because her family dedicates a lot of time to her care.

As such, suicide would be considered ethical. However, it is the duty of medical practitioners to take care of patients and ensure that they do not harm themselves. Thus, suicide violates the ethics of medical practice. In medical ethics, beneficence refers to the act of making decisions that are considered to be in patient’s best interest (Devettere, 2010).

Om the one hand, the patient has a right to self-determination. As such, allowing her to commit suicide would be a way to end her suffering and pain. On the other hand, non-maleficence refers to the act of minimizing harm. As such, it would be ethically wrong to allow the patient to commit suicide. It is the role of every clinician to protect clients from harm using all the means possible (Devettere, 2010).

Suicide has no legal foundation because there are no laws that would illegalize suicide. In some countries, the law illegalizes such forms of suicide as physician-assisted suicide called euthanasia. In the United States, it is a common law crime in many states. The government does not describe it as a crime. However, there are laws that punish medical practitioners who facilitate suicide or allow patients to commit suicide under their watch (Greenstone & Leviton, 2010).

Allowing the patient to commit suicide will thus be illegal, and that person will be liable for punishment by law because of negligence. Knowledge of the patient’s plan implies that I should act to protect her from harming herself. However, this may contradict the Patient Self-determination Act that gives patients legal right to decline treatment or medication (Greenstone & Leviton, 2010). The patient may decline professional help and go ahead with her plan to commit suicide.

References

Devettere, R. (2010). Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics: Cases and Concepts. New York: Georgetown University Press.

Greenstone, J., & Leviton, S. (2010). Elements of Crisis Intervention: Crisis and How to Respond to Them. New York: Cengage Learning.

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IvyPanda. "Moral, Ethical and Legal Dilemmas of Suicide." April 8, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/moral-ethical-and-legal-dilemmas-of-suicide/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Moral, Ethical and Legal Dilemmas of Suicide." April 8, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/moral-ethical-and-legal-dilemmas-of-suicide/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Moral, Ethical and Legal Dilemmas of Suicide'. 8 April.

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