Persistent Vegetative State
A look at the ethics of the situation in which family must think about the possibility of euthanasia.
This paper first briefly looks at the causes and definition of the condition of a persistent vegetative state. The paper then goes on to discuss active and passive euthanasia, providing an overview of the major religions’ stand on euthanasia, as well as a historical overview. The paper discusses the moral debates surrounding the issue of euthanasia, and ends with an argument for the ethics of ending the dying process with active intervention.
With the widespread development of intensive care facilities in the 1950s and ’60s, more and more such moribund patients were rushed to specialized units and put on ventilators just before spontaneous breathing ceased. The ventilator, which had taken over the functions of the paralyzed respiratory center, enabled oxygenated blood to be delivered to the heart, which went on beating. Physicians were caught up in a therapeutic dilemma partly of their own making: the heart was pumping blood to a dead brain. Modern technology was exacting a very high price: the beating-heart cadaver.