A woman was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease (the same
a disease that Stephen Hawking had) 5 years ago. This is a condition that destroys motor nerves, making control of movement impossible, while the mind is virtually unaffected. People with motor neuron disease normally die within 4 years of diagnosis from suffocation due to the inability of the inspiratory muscles to contract. The woman’s condition has steadily declined. She is not expected to live through the month and is worried about the pain that she will face in her final hours. She asks her doctor to give her morphine for pain if she begins to suffocate or choke. This will lessen her pain, but it will also hasten her death.

Does she have a right to ask for the medication even though it will hasten her death? Is this choice an extension of her autonomy?
Is the short amount of time she has to live ethically relevant? Is there an ethical difference between her dying in 6 hours and dying in a week? What about a year?
Is the right for a patient’s self-determination powerful enough to create obligations on the part of others to aid her so that she can exercise her rights? She clearly cannot kill herself, she can’t move, but should a medical professional be obligated to help her?
Should the money use to care for this woman be taken into account when she is being helped? Will people feel that they need to end their lives earlier to save money?
If you were the physician, what would you do? If you pass her off to another doctor knowing he or she would do it, does this free you from your ethical obligations?

Sample Solution

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