Italian Doctor Assists with Patient Suicide

Essay by techturtleCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 2008

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Piergiorgio Welby, a resident of Rome, Italy, is the center of the article Doctor helps Italian euthanasia activist to die, by Ian Fisher with the International Herald Tribune - Europe. Mr. Welby, age 60, had been suffering from the effects of the degenerating disease muscular dystrophy for over 40 years. Nearing his final days, Piergiorgio wanted to end his life on his own terms. He actively campaigned to the Italian government to allow him to end his own life in the manner of his choosing, but was consistently rejected. Despite these denials, he succeeded in ending his own life, with the assistance of anesthesiologist Dr. Mario Riccio. On December 20, 2006, Dr. Riccio administered a dose of anesthetic and then proceeded, at Mr. Welby's request, to remove him from the respirator to which he had been dependant for the past nine years. Almost immediately following Mr. Welby's death, members of the Italian government called for Dr.

Riccio's arrest for his part in the murder of Piergiorgio Welby. Dr. Riccio's response to their allegations was that he had not actually helped Mr. Welby commit suicide, nor had he murdered him, but that Mr. Welby had decided to refuse further treatment and he had merely followed this request by removing the respirator (Fisher, 2006, para. 1-3, 6-10).

The debate surrounding physician assisted suicide, or euthanasia, is an ethical dilemma because it centers on a patient's right to die. We are all likely to eventually encounter a situation similar to this, whether first hand to ourselves or through a friend or relative. The Theory of obligation, as described by Wall (2003, p. 56), can assist us to decide the ethicality of this situation. The Theory of Obligation states that there are three main points in determining right from wrong in our...