Author Summary A 42-year-old married woman with three children was referred to our department for treatment of treatment-resistant depression. Pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, and ECT were unsuccessful. We applied deep brain stimulation, which was partially effective and reduced depressive symptoms by 30%, but the patient still suffered. During our struggle to find optimal deep brain stimulation parameters in the course of treatment, the patient requested that her general physician provide euthanasia. Following guidelines in the Netherlands, our team was consulted, but we disapproved because her suffering was not prospectless and there still were treatment options with deep brain stimulation. Although we had treated her intensively for 2 years, our advice was disregarded. Eight weeks later we received the obituary of the patient.
Abstract The international movement that promotes the legalisation of euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is propelled by highly potent psychological mechanisms to overcome the resistance to its agenda. It is all about cognitive restructuring to justify inhumane actions. These are always in use when normal, well-socialised persons are coerced into accepting and participating in the killing of fellow human beings. Various scientific studies, pioneered by Albert Bandura, have shown that participators are able to endure their deeds by activating these powerful mechanisms of moral disengagement. However, those who make use of such mechanisms pay a high price. These mechanisms have a personality-changing power that dehumanizes the perpetrators. For the society that has allowed itself to be manipulated by such mechanisms for the purpose of systematizing “death on demand”, there are also serious consequences. These consequences can be described in terms of dehumanization and brutalization of that society as a whole.
Abstract By way of a case story, two common presuppositions in the academic debate on conscientious objection in healthcare are challenged. First, the debate typically presupposes a sharp division between conscience-based refusals based on personal core moral beliefs and refusals based on professional (eg, medical) reasons. Only the former might involve the moral gravity to warrant accommodation. The case story challenges this division, and it is argued that just as much might sometimes be at stake morally in refusals based on professional reasons. The objector’s moral integrity might be equally threatened in objections based on professional reasons as in objections based on personal beliefs. Second, the literature on conscientious objection typically presupposes that conflicts of conscience pertain to well-circumscribed and typical situations which can be identified as controversial without attention to individualising features of the concrete situation. However, the case shows that conflicts of conscience can sometimes be more particular, born from concrete features of the actual situation, and difficult, if not impossible, to predict before they arise. Guidelines should be updated to address such ‘situation-based’ conscientious refusals explicitly.
Abstract This article presents the case of a Romanian Orthodox Christian patient in the United States suffering from bipolar disorder. The patient had no family in the United States, and a community of parishioners from the Romanian Orthodox Church, including one of the authors, Mariana Cuceu (MC), cared for him after he was discharged from a psychiatric ward. The case serves as a starting point for exploring the duty of physicians not only to avoid harm but to do good, the importance of coordinating care for such patients and attending to their religious and spiritual needs, as well as the role of the community of Orthodox Christian faithful in responding to the command that we love one another.
Eva Elizabeth Bolt, Marianne C Snijdewind, Dick L Willems, Agnes van der Heide, Bregje D Onwuteaka-Philipsen
Abstract Background Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS) in patients with psychiatric disease, dementia or patients who are tired of living (without severe morbidity) is highly controversial. Although such cases can fall under the Dutch Euthanasia Act, Dutch physicians seem reluctant to perform EAS, and it is not clear whether or not physicians reject the possibility of EAS in these cases.
Aim To determine whether physicians can conceive of granting requests for EAS in patients with cancer, another physical disease, psychiatric disease, dementia or patients who are tired of living, and to evaluate whether physician characteristics are associated with conceivability. A cross-sectional study (survey) was conducted among 2269 Dutch general practitioners, elderly care physicians and clinical specialists.
Results The response rate was 64% (n=1456). Most physicians found it conceivable that they would grant a request for EAS in a patient with cancer or another physical disease (85% and 82%). Less than half of the physicians found this conceivable in patients with psychiatric disease (34%), early-stage dementia (40%), advanced dementia (29–33%) or tired of living (27%). General practitioners were most likely to find it conceivable that they would perform EAS.
Conclusions This study shows that a minority of Dutch physicians find it conceivable that they would grant a request for EAS from a patient with psychiatric disease, dementia or a patient who is tired of living. For physicians who find EAS inconceivable in these cases, legal arguments and personal moral objections both probably play a role.
Abstract This paper surveys contemporary scholarly conceptions of moral residue in order to demonstrate the fruitful inconsistencies contained in these various notions. Due to the fact that moral dilemmas are commonplace in the practice of medicine, patients and practitioners are uniquely situated to experience moral residue. The authors investigate two medical sites as case studies that demonstrate how a more capacious notion of moral residue can be useful for explaining ethical complexities: euthanasia on the battlefield and care of minors who are members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith community. These case studies will be of particular interest to chaplains, pastoral theologians, and other relevant practitioners and intellectuals. Fruitfully cast against the illuminations of interdisciplinary scholars including Donald Capps, Lorraine Hardingham, and others, these cases are used as instructive discursive devices, shedding greater light on ideas put forth within the literature on this engaging and complex topic.
Abstract One of the requirements in the Dutch regulation for euthanasia and assisted suicide is that the doctor must be satisfied ‘that the patient’s suffering is unbearable, and that there is no prospect of improvement.’ In the notorious Chabot case, a psychiatrist assisted a 50 year old woman in suicide, although she did not suffer from any somatic disease, nor strictly speaking from any psychiatric condition. In Seduced by Death, Herbert Hendin concluded that apparently the Dutch regulation now allows physicians to assist anyone in suicide simply because he or she is unhappy. In this paper, I reject Hendin’s conclusion and in particular his description of Mrs Boomsma as someone who was ‘simply unhappy.’ After a detailed narration of her lifestory, I turn to the American philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s account of volitional incapacity and love for a more accurate characterization of her suffering. Having been through what she had, she could only go on living as another person than the one she had been when she was a happy mother. That would have violated her integrity, and that she could not bring herself to do.
Abstract People routinely engage in dishonest acts without feeling guilty about their behavior. When and why does this occur? Across four studies, people justified their dishonest deeds through moral disengagement and exhibited motivated forgetting of information that might otherwise limit their dishonesty. Using hypothetical scenarios (Studies 1 and 2) and real tasks involving the opportunity to cheat (Studies 3 and 4), the authors find that one’s own dishonest behavior increased moral disengagement and motivated forgetting of moral rules. Such changes did not occur in the case of honest behavior or consideration of the dishonest behavior of others. In addition, increasing moral saliency by having participants read or sign an honor code significantly reduced unethical behavior and prevented subsequent moral disengagement. Although dishonest behavior motivated moral leniency and led to forgetting of moral rules, honest behavior motivated moral stringency and diligent recollection of moral rules.
Abstract Under the Euthanasia Program of Nazi Germany, more than 200,000 psychiatric patients were killed by doctors in psychiatric institutions. After summarising the historical facts and the slow and still going-on process of illuminating and understanding what happened, some ethical consequences are drawn. What can we learn from history? The following aspects are addressed: the special situation of psychiatry in times of war, bioethics and biopolitics, the responsibility of the psychiatrist for the individual patient, the effects of hierarchy on personal conscience and responsibility, the unethical “curable- uncurable” distinction and the atrocious concept that persons differ in their value.
Extract The coalescence of involuntarily administered antipsychotic medications and competency for execution created a novel and controversial issue that became the basis of Singleton’s final appeal. The Arkansas Supreme Court stated the question succinctly: May the State ”mandatorily medicate [Singleton] with antipsychotic drugs in order to keep him from being a danger to himself and others when a collateral effect of that medication is to render him competent to understand the nature and reason for his execution[?]” Or, as Singleton put it, “Am I too sane to live, or too insane to die?” The cynical view of that question is that Singleton was clever and manipulative. Like most people, he would do just about anything to forestall his death. The more charitable view is that Singleton found an Achilles heel in the execution process and physicians’ involvement with it, one that created what some physicians consider to be an intolerable dilemma.