SHOULD TREATMENT BE TERMINATED? by Thomas C. Oden

SHOULD TREATMENT BE TERMINATED?

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KIRKUS REVIEW

One of the unique and to many, welcome, aspects of the tragic Quinlan case has been the involvement of the Catholic clergy; here Oden, who has written about behavioral analysis from a Protestant viewpoint, adds his voice to the controversy. He first presents an acute, finely-tuned dialogue airing the pros and cons of ending a doomed life by withholding or discontinuing life-prolonging treatment, stressing at the outset their complexity. The imperatives of doctors and courts are analyzed: the physician has the ""fiduciary duty"" to preserve life, the courts have a special obligation to protect it. The author suggests twelve factors pointing toward termination, the foremost being consent by all parties, degree of patient's understanding, and the imminence of death. However, secondary and special variables may throw weight either way. In passing, Oden examines court decisions (""hard cases"" tend to produce dangerous precedents); living wills (full of hazardous loopholes); and triage (""a military ethic""). He closes with a discussion of scriptural and traditionally approved concepts, notably ""the sanctity of life."" Although, he concludes, treatment may be terminated in a few instances, the more frequent challenge for all of us is to care for the terminally ill, ""living within the limit of remaining life, rather than living with our own decision to authorize death."" A careful and conscientious study, complementary to both the Veatch appraisal (p. 1076), grounded in medico-legal ethics, and the impassioned Colen report (p. 1004).

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 1976
Publisher: Harper & Row