Palliative sedation: autonomy, suffering, and euthanasia

Colburn, B. and Johnston, B. (2023) Palliative sedation: autonomy, suffering, and euthanasia. Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care, 17(3), pp. 214-218. (doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000665) (PMID:37428181)

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Purpose of review: This contemporary and novel review of palliative sedation explores some of the distinctive ethical problems associated with that intervention. It is timely in light of recent reviews of palliative care guidelines on the topic and given the current public debates around the related but distinct practice of euthanasia. Recent findings: The main themes discussed are patient autonomy, the nature of suffering and how to alleviate it, and the relationship between palliative sedation and euthanasia. Summary: First, palliative sedation poses a significant problem for patient autonomy, both in terms of securing informed consent and in terms of the ongoing effect on individual well-being. Second, as an intervention to alleviate suffering, it is appropriate only in limited cases and counterproductive in others, for example, where an individual values their ongoing psychological or social agency more than the relief of pain or negative experience. Third, people’s ethical views about palliative sedation are often coloured by their understanding of the legal and moral status of assisted dying and euthanasia; this is unhelpful and occludes the interesting and urgent ethical questions raised by palliative sedation as a distinct end-of-life intervention.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnston, Professor Bridget and Colburn, Professor Ben
Authors: Colburn, B., and Johnston, B.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Philosophy
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing > Nursing and Health Care
Journal Name:Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care
Publisher:Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins
ISSN (Online):1751-4266
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2023 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.
First Published:First published in Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care 17(3):214-218
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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