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Death without distress? The taboo of suffering in palliative care


Streeck, Nina (2019). Death without distress? The taboo of suffering in palliative care. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy:1-9.

Abstract

Palliative care (PC) names as one of its central aims to prevent and relieve suffering. Following the concept of “total pain”, which was first introduced by Cicely Saunders, PC not only focuses on the physical dimension of pain but also addresses the patient’s psychological, social, and spiritual suffering. However, the goal to relieve suffering can paradoxically lead to a taboo of suffering and
imply adverse consequences. Two scenarios are presented: First, PC providers sometimes might fail their own ambitions. If all other means prove ineffective terminal sedation can still be applied as a last resort, though. However, it may be asked whether sedating a dying patient comes close to eliminating suffering by eliminating the sufferer and hereby resembles physician-assisted suicide (PAS), or euthanasia. As an alternative, PC providers could continue treatment, even if it so far
prove unsuccessful. In that case, either futility results or the patient might even suffer from the perpetuated, albeit fruitless interventions. Second, some patients possibly prefer to endure suffering instead of being relieved from it. Hence, they want to forgo the various bio-psycho-socio-spiritual interventions. PC provider’s' efforts then lead to paradoxical consequences: Feeling harassed by PC, patients could suffer even more and not less. In both scenarios, suffering is placed under a taboo and is thereby conceptualised as not being tolerable in general. However, to consider suffering essentially unbearable might promote assisted dying not only on an individual but also on a societal level insofar as unbearable suffering is considered a criterion for euthanasia or PAS.

Abstract

Palliative care (PC) names as one of its central aims to prevent and relieve suffering. Following the concept of “total pain”, which was first introduced by Cicely Saunders, PC not only focuses on the physical dimension of pain but also addresses the patient’s psychological, social, and spiritual suffering. However, the goal to relieve suffering can paradoxically lead to a taboo of suffering and
imply adverse consequences. Two scenarios are presented: First, PC providers sometimes might fail their own ambitions. If all other means prove ineffective terminal sedation can still be applied as a last resort, though. However, it may be asked whether sedating a dying patient comes close to eliminating suffering by eliminating the sufferer and hereby resembles physician-assisted suicide (PAS), or euthanasia. As an alternative, PC providers could continue treatment, even if it so far
prove unsuccessful. In that case, either futility results or the patient might even suffer from the perpetuated, albeit fruitless interventions. Second, some patients possibly prefer to endure suffering instead of being relieved from it. Hence, they want to forgo the various bio-psycho-socio-spiritual interventions. PC provider’s' efforts then lead to paradoxical consequences: Feeling harassed by PC, patients could suffer even more and not less. In both scenarios, suffering is placed under a taboo and is thereby conceptualised as not being tolerable in general. However, to consider suffering essentially unbearable might promote assisted dying not only on an individual but also on a societal level insofar as unbearable suffering is considered a criterion for euthanasia or PAS.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Medical ethics, palliative care, assisted suicide
Language:English
Date:6 September 2019
Deposited On:11 Sep 2019 12:15
Last Modified:07 Apr 2020 07:22
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1386-7423
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11019-019-09921-7
Official URL:http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11019-019-09921-7

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