End of Life Decisions

End of Life Decisions



End of Life Decisions

Velma Howard was seventy-six years old. She had the Lou Gherig’s Disease, which made her spinal cord dysfunctional. The condition makes patients lose the use of their muscles and they end up dying from asphyxiation. They are not able to contract since their diaphragm is not able to function. Howard’s condition deteriorated rapidly and she had lost complete use of her arms. Her legs had become problematic and her quality of life began deteriorating. She did not want to live in her condition and she wanted to accelerate her death. She recorded her death wishes noting that no one had forced her to do anything she did not want. She met up with her family in a hotel on the fiftieth anniversary and she killed herself the next day. Her husband and son were later accused of assisting her to commit suicide by noting that they provided the materials she needed to do so (Graudons, 2002).

The case presents a situation where family members helped a loved one to fulfill her dying wishes. Mrs. Howard had already to commit suicide. She was suffering from the disease and she felt that she could not live in that condition any more. She wanted to end her suffering by quickening her death, which she knew would be inevitable. The only difference was that she would reduce her suffering. It is inhumane for a person to watch another one suffer to that extent. People should do whatever they can to end such suffering for others (Lo, 2013). By continuing to live, Velma could have continued to watch as her body deteriorated and she could not have done anything about her condition. Velma’s family opted for her to die in dignity instead of becoming a vegetative state where she would have to endure more suffering. The fact that she had taken the effort to record her intentions shows that she was in a competent frame of mind when she made her decisions.

The Howard family assumed that her life was not worth living when they decided to assist her to accelerate her death. They did not value her enough to convince her not to proceed with her plans. By agreeing to her decision, the family members showed that they do not respect the sanctity of life. Just because someone is old and sick does not mean that he or she does not have anything to contribute to her family and the society. However, some people support euthanasia because they consider those they care for to be a burden in their lives. They do not consider the times they share together and the memories they have with each other when they decide to help a person to die. Some conditions make the patients feel vulnerable and depressed and this makes them lose hope for living. In some cases, patients receive bad medical care and this makes their condition worse (BBC, 2007). It is important to consider such factors before a person decides to help patients accelerate their death. Depression can be overcome and providing good quality medical care can help to reduce the pain that the patient is experiencing. The Howard family could have convinced Velma to hold on and fight for her life irrespective of the challenges she was facing. They could have found ways of helping her to manage and cope with her condition. Quality of life should not just be determined by the tangible things that a person is able to do or by her ability.

Assisted suicide is a delicate issue as it concerns human life. People should not treat human life lightly. Therefore, patients should receive the best care and support possible to ensure that they do not develop other conditions such as depression, which might cause them to wish for death. Palliative care is important and so is the support that one receives from family members. Patients who feel loved and encouraged and who do not feel that they are a burden to their families will rarely result to suicide as a means of death. Such people will wish to spend more time with their loved ones and they will see a reason for fighting. Although it might seem to be an easy way out, assisted suicide is not the option for suffering.


BBC (2007). Ethics guide: Anti-euthanasia arguments. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/euthanasia/against/against_1.shtml

Graudons, D. (2002). The Velma Howard case (assisted suicide). Retrieved from http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/socialsciences/ppecorino/MEDICAL_ETHICS_TEXT/Chapter_11_Termination_of_Life/Case_Study_Velma_Howard_ALSCase.htm

Lo, B. (2013). Resolving ethical dilemmas: A guide for clinicians. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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