Tuesday Talk - February 12, 2019

Emerging End of Life Ethical Issues in Clinical Practice

Speaker: Kenneth Prager, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Director of Medical Ethics, and Chair of the Medical Ethics Committee at Columbia University Medical Center

Medical technology and changing societal values are presenting physicians, patients, and families with increasingly complex ethical conundrums. At one extreme, technology can make it harder for hopelessly ill, actively dying patients to pass away peacefully when families and/or patients want “everything done.” At the other extreme, advocates for physician assisted suicide—or medical aid in dying, depending on one’s point of view—have succeeded in making PAS legal in 7 states. Euthanasia is legal in Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, and Colombia, and unofficially so in Switzerland.

Kenneth Prager reviewed the evolution of increasing patient autonomy over the manner and timing of death in the US and presented a case in contrast where family insistence on continued life support raised questions about the definition of death.