Nursing and Euthanasia: a Review of Argument-Based Ethics Literature

Catholic University of Leuven and Leuven University College, Leuven, Belgium.
Nursing Ethics (Impact Factor: 1.25). 08/2009; 16(4):466-86. DOI: 10.1177/0969733009104610
Source: PubMed


This article gives an overview of the nursing ethics arguments on euthanasia in general, and on nurses' involvement in euthanasia in particular, through an argument-based literature review. An in-depth study of these arguments in this literature will enable nurses to engage in the euthanasia debate. We critically appraised 41 publications published between January 1987 and June 2007. Nursing ethics arguments on (nurses' involvement in) euthanasia are guided primarily by the principles of respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence and justice. Ethical arguments related to the nursing profession are described. From a care perspective, we discuss arguments that evaluate to what degree euthanasia can be considered positively or negatively as a form of good nursing care. Most arguments in the principle-, profession- and care-orientated approaches to nursing ethics are used both pro and contra euthanasia in general, and nurses' involvement in euthanasia in particular.

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    • "And not just any old idea, or an opinion masquerading as an idea, will do. Ideas need to be theorised, and capable of being marshalled and organised into an argument (a coherent set of reasons that logically go together to support a conclusion for how something should be) (McCullough et al. 2004; Quaghebeur et al. 2009). This can be done in a variety of ways. "
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    • "On the other hand, the reviews among nurses mainly report nurses’ arguments for or against euthanasia [5] —including ethical principles [6,7] —or their involvement in the euthanasia process [8,9]. Only one review reported estimates of nurses’ willingness to perform euthanasia and the socio-demographic characteristics related to attitude toward euthanasia [5]. "
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