Euthanasia as an Ethical Dilemma in Nursing

Table of Contents


There are situations when people should make decisions, the answers to which are unclear. In nursing, such ethical dilemmas frequently occur, and euthanasia, also known as assisted death, is one of them. Extended research is developed to identify “for” and “against” arguments about this concept, but even the representatives of the same healthcare facility can support different positions. The purpose of this paper is to discuss various aspects of the chosen ethical dilemma and its relation to technology. To end someone’s life is never simple, and nurses should investigate multiple conditions before deciding on the position in regard to this ethical issue. Is it correct for patients to force nurses to participate in assisted death even if it is a legal procedure and questioning their roles? Nursing care is always about promoting health and well-being, and the distortion of professional medical support has to be re-evaluated. There is no right or wrong statement about euthanasia, but, in this paper, a nursing position is against euthanasia. Patient death is a severe challenge for many nurses, and euthanasia should not be supported because it contradicts the essence of care and healthy life.

Ethical Dilemma

During the last several decades, no single attitude toward the concept of assisted death has been formed in many countries. In the United Kingdom, euthanasia is illegal, and assisted suicide could lead to imprisonment, while Canada and Belgium have already legalized this process (Pesut et al., 2019). In the United States, the situation is more complex because only nine states have legally approved assisted death, making euthanasia illegal for the majority of the population. The main nursing responsibility is to provide high-quality, compassionate, and patient-centered care. People expect health care to be properly determined and guided by professionals. Death is an inevitable occurrence in human life, and studies are developed to improve end-of-life care (Karnik & Kanekar, 2016). However, euthanasia is not a part of such care but a termination of the life of a sick person who needs to relieve suffering. It is expected that nurses provide wraparound care for patients and their families, support healthcare providers, and complete much moral work (Pesut et al., 2019). Assisted death may have different forms, including lethal injections, not feeding, and no resuscitation and nurses are morally obliged to follow patient will.

Euthanasia Impact

After numerous debates and investigations, people have accepted the possibility of the right to die at a time or place patients choose. Sometimes, it is hard for a person to experience all pain and discomfort due to a particular health condition. Therefore, patients are free to reject any form of treatment and even leave hospitals to spend their last days among beloved ones and friends. When any kind of movement is possible, and patients are not able to make independent decisions, they ask their families or care providers to terminate their life by means of euthanasia. However, many ethical and religious concerns must not be ignored, and this dilemma has a specific impact on patients, nursing practice, and the research process.


Mostly, patients consider euthanasia as their only solution to avoid suffering or dependence on medications and end-of-life care. Nurses have to support patient autonomy and choices to end their lives in the only preferred way (Schiller et al., 2019). Unfortunately, sick people are commonly obsessed with avoiding pain and fail to realize that as soon as they ask a nurse or a physician to assist in dying, they provoke a number of unpredictable effects. Everything could be more or less normal and controlled for a certain period. A patient uses the left time to say goodbye to family and friends, sign the necessary documents, and share some recommendations. Even if family members support the idea of assisted death and get themselves prepared for it, their attitudes and reactions might change at that very moment when the time to terminate human life comes. In the face of death, even the strongest individuals are challenged, and only nurses and other medical staff should stay unbiased but keep on the process.

Nursing Practice

Euthanasia has a serious impact on nursing practice because if this decision proves patient autonomy and will, nurses are not allowed to make their contributions or rely on their religious beliefs. According to Pesut et al. (2019), the major challenges include no clear professional guidelines, ambiguity, and the lack of collaboration. Compared to patients and families, who are not experienced enough, nurses observe different reactions and conditions associated with euthanasia. It is not enough to know the basics of assisting in dying. Nurses must support patients till their last breath and their families even after the death of a patient. Sometimes, nurses cannot find appropriate words or explanations to help a family survive a loss. There is also a threat that nurses overestimate their responsibilities and play gods instead of performing their direct duties. Nurses are aware of new techniques for end-of-life care to promote dignity and respect for patients (Karnik & Kanekar, 2016). Therefore, it is not always possible or easy for a nurse to neglect available treatment forms that could help a patient but follow a euthanasia-based decision.

Research Process

The existing variety of options and attitudes toward euthanasia serves as a solid background for continuous research in this field. The solution to an ethical dilemma cannot be verified by evidence because there are always enough supportive and opposing facts. On the one hand, the passing of euthanasia legalization is possible but characterized by certain obligations and requirements in some regions (Schiller et al., 2019). On the other hand, medical-assisted dying enhances the responsibilities of healthcare providers in relation to patients who have lost their decision-making capacities and continue suffering (Campbell, 2019). Researchers might reveal many pros and cons of euthanasia in a short period, and every position will have enough arguments. Therefore, this ethical dilemma contributes to the development of new studies and examples of how assisted death is accepted by American society.

Information Technology

Today, the role of technological improvement is frequently discussed in many healthcare facilities. Campbell (2019) admits that professional technologies have made it harder for people to die in contemporary care. The application of specific equipment, fast delivery of medications or organs for transplantation, and computerization help nurses provide their patients with the hope that improvements have to be expected. The advantage of information technology is extended access to new opportunities for people who have lost interest in life. Schiller et al. (2019) underline that technology outpaces legal development. If it was normal to assist in dying with dignity decades ago (which supported euthanasia legalization), nowadays, nurses want to use technologies to assist healing and living with dignity.


The necessity of euthanasia is always characterized by a number of benefits and shortages. Although nurses do not directly participate in this process, their role has to be determined and explained. From the point of view of nursing practice, assisted death is a challenge that does not improve the quality of care but causes emotional damage. Patients and governments are free to develop their independent judgments and attitudes toward euthanasia. Nurses should not neglect their major duty that is care and well-being promotion and do everything possible to minimize euthanasia-based decisions, rely on technological progress, address religion, and share professional experiences and observations.


Campbell, C. S. (2019). Mortal responsibilities: Bioethics and medical-assisted dying. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 92(4), 733-739.

Karnik, S., & Kanekar, A. (2016). Healthcare, 4(2). Web.

Pesut, B., Thorne, S., Greig, M., Fulton, A., Janke, R., & Vis-Dunbar, M. (2019). Ethical, policy, and practice implications of nurses’ experiences with assisted death: A synthesis. Ans. Advances in Nursing Science, 42(3), 216-230. Web.

Schiller, C. J., Pesut, B., Roussel, J., & Greig, M. (2019). But it’s legal, isn’t it? Law and ethics in nursing practice related to medical assistance in dying. Nursing Philosophy, 20(4). Web.

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