Anticruelty Care: Commentary
Braithwaite, Susan S.
Journal of Clinical Ethics. 1991 Summer; 2(2): 97-103.
The anticruelty policy is a best-interests test for treatment plans including decisions to forgo life-sustaining therapy for certain incompetent patients. In connection with specific proposed therapy, the policy requires no reference to the patient's unknowable values, subjective experiences, or quality of life. The decision to undertake a treatment plan derives from the caregiver's knowledge of burdens and benefits of that treatment when used in caring for the competent or for those incompetents capable of growth or repair. The caregiver should weigh the potentially cruel effects of treatment against the likelihood of reducing suffering or encumbrance with the treatment. The terms "burden" and "benefit," in fact, are replaced by the terms "cruelty" and "beneficence," as the relevant opposing outcomes that must be weighed. Thus, the anticruelty policy shifts our scrutiny from experiences of the patient that we cannot evaluate to the proposed actions of the competent decision makers and caregivers. Notably, it is a protreatment policy when the goals of medicine are attainable; and it is an anticruelty policy when they are not. The policy does evaluate the world of the patient to the extent that it requires a judgment based upon external appearances about patient pleasure or happiness in living. It presumes to universalize larger societal values about cruelty, beneficence, compassionate concern for the helpless, and certain rights of individuals. And it presumes to universalize on the patient's behalf specific medical values about hopeless injury, timely death, the goals of medicine, and cruelty, which should remain open to societal discussion and revision. The presented definition of hopeless injury does not require brain death, coma, or persistent vegetative state. Specifically, the policy holds that death is timely for a patient with hopeless injury, and that prevention of death for such patients is not a goal of medicine but a cruelty.
Aged; Allowing to Die; Artificial Feeding; Autonomy; Beneficence; Brain; Brain Death; Brain Pathology; Caregivers; Caring; Chronically Ill; Compassion; Competence; Coma; Consent; Death; Decision Making; Family Members; Goals; Health; Health Personnel; Knowledge; Legal Aspects; Life; Medicine; Moral Policy; Pain; Patient Care; Patients; Persistent Vegetative State; Physical Restraint; Policy Analysis; Prognosis; Prolongation of Life; Quality of Life; Rights; Risks and Benefits; Standards; Suffering; Terminal Care; Terminally Ill; Third Party Consent; Values; Withholding Treatment;