Are all forms of Euthanasia illegal in the UK?

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solarplexus
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Euthanasia is possibly the most ambiguous topic I've ever read up upon...

What confuses me is that UK law says that euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal, yet I've heard many accounts of doctors and families turning off life-support machines of terminally ill patients.

Euthanasia is defined as: 'Euthanasia is the termination of a very sick person's life in order to relieve them of their suffering.' Thus is the turning off machines illegal - or is the law ambiguous, and contradictory?

I seriously don't understand....and the NHS/BBC/even american websites do not really give me the answers...
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Helenia
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Withdrawal of care deemed to be futile or no longer in the patient's best interests, including withdrawal of "life support" on intensive care, is legal (and good medical practice). Giving a drug to actively end someone's life is not.
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solarplexus
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(Original post by Helenia)
Withdrawal of care deemed to be futile or no longer in the patient's best interests, including withdrawal of "life support" on intensive care, is legal (and good medical practice). Giving a drug to actively end someone's life is not.
Would the withdrawal of care (that is not in their best interests) have to be overseen by the courts?

What should I say in interview?
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Democracy
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(Original post by solarplexus)
Euthanasia is possibly the most ambiguous topic I've ever read up upon...

What confuses me is that UK law says that euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal, yet I've heard many accounts of doctors and families turning off life-support machines of terminally ill patients.

Euthanasia is defined as: 'Euthanasia is the termination of a very sick person's life in order to relieve them of their suffering.' Thus is the turning off machines illegal - or is the law ambiguous, and contradictory?

I seriously don't understand....and the NHS/BBC/even american websites do not really give me the answers...
:confused:
That's letting nature take its course (following discussion amongst the staff and family and with respect to the patient's wishes as far as they can be ascertained)...it's very different to sticking a patient with a needle full of KCl and causing them to go into cardiac arrest because you've made the executive decision that that would be the best thing for them.

Essentially I believe it comes down to the difference between allowing a patient to die and actively killing them.
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solarplexus
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(Original post by Democracy)
That's letting nature take its course (following discussion amongst the staff and family and with respect to the patient's wishes as far as they can be ascertained)...it's very different to sticking a patient with a needle full of KCl and causing them to go into cardiac arrest because you've made the executive decision that that would be the best thing for them.

Essentially I believe it comes down to the difference between allowing a patient to die and actively killing them.
would you agree that 'allowing a patient to die' is indirectly euthanasia in the passive sense?
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Helenia
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(Original post by solarplexus)
Would the withdrawal of care (that is not in their best interests) have to be overseen by the courts?

What should I say in interview?
Not in most cases - it's a consultant-led decision (often more than one consultant) in discussion with the patient's family. If there is a dispute, that's when the courts get involved.

As Democracy says, it's allowing someone to die rather than killing them. To be honest I don't consider most withdrawals euthanasia (though that is my personal opinion) - it's just giving good end-of-life care.
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Democracy
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(Original post by solarplexus)
would you agree that 'allowing a patient to die' is indirectly euthanasia in the passive sense?
Not really - we're all going to die. Death is a natural part of life, it's not like you're doing your best to worsen their condition by withdrawing active interventions. Killing someone means bringing their life to an unnatural and premature end from what it naturally would have been - that's not really what happens when you allow someone's life to take its natural course i.e. that includes allowing it come to an end.

Euthanasia is an active action - I'm not sure how it can be done passively. Even under the doctrine of double effect your primary intention is not to speed up the patient's death (even if that's what may actually happen).
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nexttime
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(Original post by Democracy)
Essentially I believe it comes down to the difference between allowing a patient to die and actively killing them.
That is how the law currently is.

Its such a load of bull**** though. There are actions and there are consequences. You should take responsibility for both. Its crazy that we have a law that would kill the 5 in the trolley problem.
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M150
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(Original post by nexttime)
That is how the law currently is.

Its such a load of bull**** though. There are actions and there are consequences. You should take responsibility for both. Its crazy that we have a law that would kill the 5 in the trolley problem.
Yes but if we accept we should save the 5 over the 1 in the trolley problem, why don't we kill one person to save many by organ transplants? It's not always clear cut.
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nexttime
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(Original post by M150)
Yes but if we accept we should save the 5 over the 1 in the trolley problem, why don't we kill one person to save many by organ transplants? It's not always clear cut.
You answer your own question - if it was as simple as kill one person save 5 of equal lifespan, then yes clearly we should. That scenario is not that simple though.

Calling something passive then not caring about the result is just irresponsible.
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solarplexus
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so is euthanasia and 'withdrawing life support' a gray area? (basically what i have to say at interview)...

Is there any information about the laws regarding 'withdrawing life support'?
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Sycopation
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I vaguely remember that if they're extreme sick and on the verge of death, you're allowed to give sedatives that ease the pain allowing the patient to pass away peacefully. It isnt euthanasia as its not contributing to cause of death but still interesting. Does doing this mean doctors accept they cannot do anything to save the patient despite possibility of there is a chance?

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nexttime
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(Original post by solarplexus)
so is euthanasia and 'withdrawing life support' a gray area? (basically what i have to say at interview)...

Is there any information about the laws regarding 'withdrawing life support'?
You should read about consent, advanced directives, medical power of attorney and treating in best interests.

Ultimately no one has the right to demand inappropriate treatment from the NHS - if "life support" is considered futile the doctors have the power to turn it off.
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nexttime
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(Original post by Sycopation)
I vaguely remember that if they're extreme sick and on the verge of death, you're allowed to give sedatives that ease the pain allowing the patient to pass away peacefully. It isnt euthanasia as its not contributing to cause of death but still interesting. Does doing this mean doctors accept they cannot do anything to save the patient despite possibility of there is a chance?
Even if the sedatives clearly are the cause of death its allowed. The idea is that you didn't intend to kill them so it's allowed (even though you knew it was a risk/even a certainty). (The law)

Again not something I agree with. Stop avoiding responsibility for your actions and call it what it is - euthanasia. (Opinion)
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Helenia
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(Original post by nexttime)
You answer your own question - if it was as simple as kill one person save 5 of equal lifespan, then yes clearly we should. That scenario is not that simple though.

Calling something passive then not caring about the result is just irresponsible.
I care enormously about good end-of-life care. If you want to call making sensible, compassionate decisions euthanasia, then I'm not going to stop you. In the purest semantic sense, I suppose it is a "good death" and therefore euthanasia, but not in the emotionally loaded, Shipmanesque way the Daily Mail would have you believe.

Do you think we should continue to ventilate ICU patients until every cell in their body dies on us? Or is it just the terminology you think is misleading?
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Zorg
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(Original post by solarplexus)
so is euthanasia and 'withdrawing life support' a gray area? (basically what i have to say at interview)...

Is there any information about the laws regarding 'withdrawing life support'?
You' re not going to find a set answer to this interview question. It's designed to illustrate not only your understanding but your ability to critically review and conclude. If you were to memorise someone else's answer I can guarantee you'll get picked apart on it as you won't be able to defend it.
Just read around the area, nexttime, Helenia and Democracy have given you topics to read around so as to gain a better understanding.
You can already see the issue raises different concerns in different individuals and so they come to their own conclusions. All you need to do is come to a well reasoned conclusion at interview.
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nexttime
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(Original post by Helenia)
I care enormously about good end-of-life care. If you want to call making sensible, compassionate decisions euthanasia, then I'm not going to stop you. In the purest semantic sense, I suppose it is a "good death" and therefore euthanasia, but not in the emotionally loaded, Shipmanesque way the Daily Mail would have you believe.

Do you think we should continue to ventilate ICU patients until every cell in their body dies on us? Or is it just the terminology you think is misleading?
The other way around - I think we should acknowledge that we already perform euthanasia all the time, and not impose this arbitrary limit of 'passive action' in making compassionate decisions.
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