Families play fundamental roles with regard to decision-making during the dying process of a patient. The varied decisions that family members make during the dying process include administering euthanasia and assisted suicide. In making the end-of-life decisions, families should adhere to ethical theories uphold fairness and reduce harm as well as human suffering.
Mill proposes utilitarianism theory as the basis for making moral decisions. Through the theory, Mill believes that actions are justified if they promote overall happiness (Beauchamp & Childress, 2019). In particular, Mill’s views focus on the consequences of actions and not personal rights or ethical sentiments. The end-of-life is usually characterized by the fear of possible suffering with little chance of recovery. Using Mill’s theory of utilitarianism, the wishes of the family should take precedence as it guarantees overall happiness. Therefore, authorizing euthanasia or assisted suicide alleviates the pain and a patient’s suffering and prevents the family from incurring unnecessary costs yet chances of recovery are slim.
Meanwhile, Kant’s perspectives supported by deontological moral theory does not consider the consequences rather it focuses on universal laws that does not ruin societies. The family of a patient plays a role of withholding pertinent information regarding the dying process so that bad news is dealt with by a scheme of silence (Johnson, 2011). The intention is to minimize pain arising from the death of a patient for the greatest number of people, including family members. Consequently, Rawl advocates for the principle of fairness during the dying process of a patient. In deciding where, when and how a patient dies, family members fairly protects a patient from ineffective treatment pains, isolation and abandonment by health teams as well as family members. In addition, it is only fair when family members protect themselves from mental torment associated with sick patients who have no chance of recovering.
Indeed, there are myriad circumstances like chronic diseases and reduced chances of recovery surrounding end-of-life of patients. The circumstances require medical professionals to liaise with family members to take responsibility to determine when, where and how a patient should die. The end-of-life decisions should be anchored on ethical theories to ensure they reduce harm and suffering.
Beauchamp, T. & Childress, J. (2019). Principles of biomedical ethics, 8th edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
Johnson, O. (2011). Ethics: Selections from classical and contemporary writers (11th ed). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.