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Revista médica de Chile

Print version ISSN 0034-9887

Abstract

SOCIEDAD MEDICA DE SANTIAGO. GRUPO DE ESTUDIOS DE ÉTICA CLÍNICA. Euthanasia and medical act. Rev. méd. Chile [online]. 2011, vol.139, n.5, pp.642-654. ISSN 0034-9887.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0034-98872011000500013.

Right to life -as the prohibition of intentionally and arbitrarily taking life, even with authorization of the concerned one- is an internationally recognized right. In many countries, debate regarding euthanasia is more centered in its convenience, social acceptability and how it is regulated, than in its substantial legitimacy. Some argue that euthanasia should be included as part of clinical practice of health professionals, grounded on individual's autonomy claims-everyone having the liberty to choose how to live and how to die. Against this, others sustain that life has a higher value than autonomy, exercising autonomy without respecting the right to life would become a serious moral and social problem. Likewise, euthanasia supporters some-times claim a 'right to live with dignity', which must be understood as a personal obligation, referred more to the ethical than to the strictly legal sphere. In countries where it is already legalized, euthanasia practice has extended to cases where it is not the patient who requests this but the family or some healthcare professional, or even the legal system-when they think that the patient is living in a condition which is not worthy to live. Generalization of euthanasia possibly will end in affecting those who need more care, such as elder, chronically ill or dyingpeople, damaging severely personal basic rights. Nature, purpose and tradition of medicine rule out the practice of euthanasia, which ought not be considered a medical act or legitimately compul-sory for physicians. Today's medicine counts with effective treatments for pain and suffering, such as palliative care, including sedative therapy, which best preserves persons dignity and keeps safe the ethos of the medical profession.

Keywords : Bioethical Issues; Codes of Ethics; Ethics, medical; Euthanasia; Terminal Care.

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