Cavalieri T. Ethical issues at the end of life. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2001;101(10):616–624. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2001.101.10.616.
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Providing good care for dying patients requires that physicians be knowledgeable of ethical issues pertinent to end-of-life care. Effective advance care planning can assure patient autonomy at the end of life even when the patient has lost decision-making capacity. Medical futility is difficult to identify in the clinical setting but may be described as an intervention that will not allow the intended goal of therapy to be achieved. Medical interventions, including artificial nutrition and hydration, can be withheld or withdrawn if this measure is consistent with the dying patient's wishes. Physicians caring for terminally ill patients receive requests for physician-assisted suicide. The physician should establish the basis for the request and work with the healthcare team to provide support and comfort for the patient. Physician-assisted suicide could negate the traditional patient-physician relationship and place vulnerable populations at risk. Physicians need to incorporate spiritual issues into the management of patients at the end of life. The integrity of the physician as a moral agent in the clinical setting needs to be recognized and honored. The physician has a moral imperative to assure good care for dying patients.
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