The director of the Institute for Bioethics of the Catholic University of La Plata, Juan Carlos Caprile, said this week that respect for terminally ill patients demands they be cared for and not killed.
Caprile commented on a proposed law in the province of Rio Negro that would allow terminally ill patients to put limits on their treatment in order not to prolong their illnesses. The director said palliative care is a better option because it helps terminally ill patients to avoid “extraordinary sufferings.”
He said the Institute is in agreement that disproportionate means should not be used if there is no chance for improvement, but he said, the Institute opposes the exclusion of food and hydration from basic care.
According to Caprile, “Reasonable therapeutic treatment is duly established in the so-called Palliative Care and helps avoid unnecessary suffering in these cases.”
“In this sense, he said, “the decisions of the patients should be considered starting from respect for their own life and the moral autonomy of the doctor whose task is not to destroy life but to save it.” “The relationship of freedom/responsibility between the patient and the doctor should not be conceived of in the sense that the doctor is a substitute for the will of the patient, but also neither should the doctor have to be the executor of the will of the patient in determining his death, justifying the exercise of supposed mercy in response to the patient’s pain,” Caprile warned.
He stressed that doctors should put their knowledge at the service of alleviating suffering, “not only physical but also psychiatric and spiritual.” “When a patient is in a terminal state the doctor should give him or her basic hydration and nutrition as well as the rest of the so-called palliative care, avoiding the use of extraordinary or disproportionate means that have no prospect of improvement.”