Life preserving technologies have shifted the dynamics of the perceived role of health professionals as they are now increasingly being viewed as persons most suited to care for the patients sustaining prolonged diseases. Those patients who suffer from diseases which virtually force them to live terminally ill lives may require assistance in the form of help to end their lives to end the suffering and pain inflicted on them through different diseases. In such cases patients may be willing to end their lives mostly with the help of their physicians. (Sunstein, 1997). The case of Terri Schiavo is one such example which raised a lot of ethical as well as professional questions regarding the supposed role of health professionals in providing assistance to end their lives.
The above mentioned situation have also gave rise to the discussion of whether the patients, who are lucid as well as competent, to decide whether to accept or decline life sustaining treatments. These discussions has also lead to the culmination of Patient Self Determination Act during 1990 which made mandatory for hospitals and nursing homes to inform their patients, in advance, regarding the type of treatment they may receive and if patients are unaware of such things, they must be informed regarding the advance directives.(Bernal,2008) This legislation also gave rise to the concept of living will which allowed patients of lucid and competent mind to decide upon the type of life prolonging treatments to be administrated to them thus ethically upholding the patient autonomy. (Valente, 2004).
As discussed above that patients with terminal illness often seek the help of their physicians to end their lives gives rise to another dimension to the whole argument that whether other health professionals especially nurses should also have a role in assisting patients to write their living will in order to decide upon choosing the life prolonging treatments.
Authorization to Nurses
The argument of whether to allow nurses to assist patients in writing their will to accept or reject certain life prolonging treatments need to be viewed in multiple perspectives of ethical, legal as well as professional standards.
It is often argued that ending one' life either through a living will or otherwise gives rise to the question of the moral beliefs held by the society (McMahan, 1993). This question alone put a certain ethical restrictions on the more responsible institutions not to be a part of something which has strong moral as well as ethical consequences. Though, living will may be a legal document which spells out "the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you do and don't want" (Mayo , 2007) however, it does not necessarily means that hospitals and other health service providers deliberately attempt to assist patients to write their will to live let alone allowing nurses to be part of that.
Though the assistance of nurses may be of technical nature however, given the low level of