Today in the twenty-first century, it is a given that patients have certain rights including the right to receive or refuse medical treatments. The common question is, should they also have the right to be allowed to die? This decision presents many concerns regarding ethical dilemmas for the health providers that are involved.
In 1973, Donald "Dax" Cowart was 25 years old when he was critically injured in an explosion, sustaining severe burns on over 65 percent of his body (Hillard01, 2011). Dax underwent daily skin treatments that were described as cruel, agonizing and barbaric while only receiving low doses of pain medications (Burt, 1998). He refused ...view middle of the document...
At this point, he should have been allowed to make the decisions to continue or not. A mentally competent patient shall be given information concerning their diagnosis, the risk and benefits of treatments, and the expected quality of life (Jonsen, Siegler & Winslade, 1998). He or she should then be allowed to continue or to discontinue all treatment. If a patient does decide to stop medical care, they should be given supportive care and pain medication to ease the quantity of pain and discomfort, allowing the patient to have a dignified death that is under their control and terms.
In 1973, pain medication knowledge was not what it is today. If the doctors had given him a larger dosage of pain medication, which was later determined that they could have, this might have changed his intense desire to die. Dax’s constant demands to refuse treatment could have been clouded by his intense pain and suffering, The physician's decision to withhold pain medication, citing “safety” as the reason, demonstrated an example of nonmaleficence, which is the duty to do no harm intentionally (Jonsen, Siegler & Winslade, 1998).
In 1986, Dax Cowart went on to become a lawyer. He is a strong advocate for patient autonomy, and he believes that patients should have the right to make their decisions about their medical care without the healthcare provider trying...