Volume 14, Issue 4, Winter 2014
Michael Brian Humble, MD
Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders and Suicide Attempts
What Is the Moral Duty of the Physician?
Elderly persons are living longer with debilitating illnesses and are at risk for suicide. They are also more likely to have a living will with a DNR order. With the medical culture’s emphasis on patient autonomy, an ethical approach that respects the dignity of these suffering human persons is needed. Suicide must be viewed as an act against the principle of life and the intrinsic good of the human being. Beneficence outweighs autonomy in such cases. Medical providers are at risk of mediate material cooperation with the evil of such an act if they fail to preserve a life that can be saved. DNR orders should be reversed in these situations until these patients receive psychological treatment and pain relief. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 14.4 (Winter 2014): 661–671.