Decisions regarding end of life have of late gained prominence in various health organizations all over the world. In order to prevent imminent deaths in terminally ill patients and in other cases where the patients’ lives seem to be no more, the process of prolonging life through the use of high-tech devices and other scientific inventions have been greatly used. Terminally ill patients have, thus, been placed in Intensive Care Units (ICU) with an intention of preventing early deaths and suffering through life support technologies which prolong the lives of such patients. However, debate has arisen on whether the use of such life support technologies aimed at prolonging the lives of terminally ill patients should continue to be used at the discretion of the medical personnel or be left to the hands of individuals who should decide whether they want their lives to be prolonged or not. This paper, therefore, seeks to explore, explain and analyze various prospective on the issue of end of life decisions with specific reference to prolonging life in order to delay death. Finally, the paper seeks to conclude that end of life decisions should be left to an individual to decide whether one’s life should be prolonged or not (Clausen 2010, p. 15).
The issue of prolonging life in order to delay death among terminally ill patients has elicited debates across various communities and societies all over the world. Many arguments for and against the issue of prolonging life so as to delay death in patients have been put forth by ordinary individuals and professionals as well. For instance, Christians and religious professionals have argued that prolonging life through the use of intensive medical care with an aim of delaying death is both unethical and unprofessional. They have argued that the extension of life through the use of life support machines is unacceptable because it is like the human race is competing with God who is the giver and taker of human life. They have, therefore, argued that the decision of life and death should be left entirely to the Almighty God. However, medical professionals and health care givers have argued that the provision of intensive medical care for terminally ill patients should be advocated for since it is the basic right of each and every patient. The healthcare providers, thus, strongly believe that each and every effort should be applied in order to prolong the lives of patients and delay death to the highest extend. Arguments have, therefore, arisen as to whether to prolong the lives of patients and delay their deaths through enhanced medical care or leave patients to die at the earliest opportunity (Navasky et al. 2010, p. 30).
Despite the criticisms that have existed regarding the issue of prolonging life in order to delay death in patients, various benefits have been known to accrue from this process. Friends and family alike would be happy to see their patients alive rather than dead. As a result, they would wish to have their patients’ lives extended to the last minute rather than to see them die. Prolonging life in order to delay death in patients is, therefore, seen as a positive process since it enables friends and family to have an emotional touch with the patient unlike when the patient is dead. Likewise, prolonging life and delaying death by the medical and health care providers not only make it evident to the society and overall human population of their commitment and expertise to extend patients’ life but also make the patients’ relatives and friends have trust in them. Such cases are proved enough that extending or prolonging life in patients with a view of delaying death is actually beneficial. The death of patients whose lives have been extended leaves the relatives and friends as well to strongly believe that it was the patient’s last day and, thus, they remove any doubts and blame on the health care providers and medical personnel (Elliott et al. 2009, p. 700).
Despite the numerous benefits which arise from the use of life enhancing or support devices, lots of criticisms have been forth regarding this practice. Proponents have argued that there has been an increase in the deaths of patients receiving life support treatments in the intensive care units. During the past ten years, most patients aged above 80 years undergoing treatment in the intensive care treatment have succumbed to death. Issues have, therefore, been raised regarding the efficiency of life support devices and treatments aimed at prolonging live and delaying death. These deaths have, therefore, placed health care providers in an ethical dilemma as to whether the patients’ life should be prolonged or not (Lazarus 2012, p. 1).
In some religious sects, taking any form of medication is seen as a sin and, thus, any attempt to extend or prolong human life through the use of life support medical care is taken as a transgression against God. Such sects believe in the Supernatural Mighty God who is responsible for any healing incases of any sicknesses and, thus, they ban their members from taking any kind of medication. The act of prolonging life in order to delay death is, therefore, seen to be unethical on their side since it is seen as a direct competition with God who is the giver and taker of human life. The process of extending critically ill patients’ lives in order to prolong death by healthcare providers, therefore, places them on a direct collision with such sect members.
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The idea of prolonging the lives of patients who are too ill through the use of technological inventions has become an intensely compelling issue between individuals who are against its use and those who are for it. While some individuals will support the idea of prolonging the lives of patients through life support machines and other inventions, other people have vehemently opposed this technology and advocated for its abolishment. Critics have argued against the idea of prolonging life by claiming that by doing so the human populace will not only be acting against nature’s desires but also going against God’s wishes as well. Given the scientific fact that all living things, man included, should die at one time, death being inevitable should be given it is due when it comes to knocking. Death should not be fought nor delayed through prolonging of life using life supporting gadgets (Panicola 2001, p. 20).
In conclusion, I strongly believe that whether or not to extend or prolong human life in order to extend death should be entirely a personal decision. As a result, at the end of human life, each and every human being is left with the decision as to whether his or her life should be prolonged or not. By so doing, individuals will not only be capable of deciding their own destiny but will die “happy deaths” in which everything is done according to their desires or wishes. The idea of prolonging life in order to delay death should never be the preserve of healthcare providers alone but instead, it should be a collective responsibility for the affected patient, relatives and friends as well. Reforms should be made in contemporary medical environments to allow patients to have the right of deciding whether they want their lives to be prolonged with a view of delaying death or not. Granting critically ill patients the right of making decisions regarding their lives does not only enable them to die honorably, but it is also a show of respect of human rights (Winter et al. 2007, p. 623).