A Mother 's Death Tested Reporter 's Thinking About End Of Life Care

1060 Words Oct 18th, 2014 5 Pages
In the NPR article, “A Mother’s Death Tested Reporter’s Thinking about End-of-Life Care”, Charles Ornstein writes about his family’s decisions during his mother’s end-of-life care. The NPR article details the decision that the Ornstein family made in the course of Harriet Ornstein’s end-of-life care to discontinue “aggressive care” and remove a ventilator that prolonged Harriet’s life (Ornstein). In this essay, we argue that the final decision made by the Ornstein family to remove the ventilator was morally permissible, justified by specific principles of deontological ethics and social consequentialist ethics.
First, one may acknowledge that in evaluating the Ornsteins’ actions, we are dealing with conflicting ideas about benefits and harms to the patient. For example, let us begin with a view that will be referred to in this essay as the “on the surface” perspective. By choosing to remove Harriet Ornstein’s ventilator, on the surface, the consequence is Harriet’s death; to some, this action could be classified immediately as a harm. As Robert Veatch states in The Basics of Bioethics, prior to 1960, the “gold standard was that the purpose of medicine was to preserve life” (53). For someone who upholds that medicine’s goal is to preserve life, one might see the act of disconnecting the ventilator to be in violation of this ultimate duty to preserve life or even the duty to avoid killing. Further, some might believe in following a conservative consequentialist line of…

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