Wednesday, December 3, 2008

DNR Orders & Euthanasia

A Canadian element of euthanasia we haven’t really touched on is the issue of do not resuscitate orders (DNR). Some may argue that DNR is not a form of euthanasia and should be classified as something entirely different. However, before we get to that argument a brief explanation of what a DNR order refers to is necessary.

A DNR order is a legal document that instructs medical practitioners to not attempt any revival techniques on a particular person if their breathing or heart stops. Fortunately, not just anyone can request a DNR order on your behalf. Only two people can do this; the individual who does not want to be revived, and in situations where someone is of diminished capacity, those with their Power of Attorney (almost always family). However, once a DNR order has been granted, a person is able to change their mind and have it withdrawn at anytime.

Now that the basics of DNR orders has been clarified, would you consider a physician who doesn’t attempt to save a patient in cardiac arrest as someone practicing assisted suicide or euthanasia? Technically, adhering to DNR orders is legally justifiable, but at the same time it should be considered a form of passive euthanasia. As mentioned in previous posts, in contrast to what is typically considered euthanasia, passive euthanasia does not involve any actions that induce death. Passive euthanasia is actually characterized by but failing to attempt potentially life saving techniques. Considering this definition, it is clear how allowing someone in cardiac arrest to pass into death without attempting to revive them is a form of passive euthanasia.

Considering the different natures of passive and active euthanasia, we believe that perhaps some who do not support “typical” euthanasia may in fact be accepting of DNR orders. Please feel free to weigh in on your thoughts, whether you feel DNR orders are the same as euthanasia or if you see them in an entirely different light. Comments are always welcomed.

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