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Refusal of Treatment, Suicide Intervention and Autonomy

GVER, Vol. 5 No. 2, (2004)

Respect for autonomy grounds a patient’s right to refuse medical treatment
even when the resulting consequence will be death of the patient. This, in policy,
guarantees a patient the right to commit suicide by refusing treatment. However,
individuals who attempt suicide by active measures are often subjected to prolonged
intervention. This creates an inconsistency in the policies of treatment refusal and
suicide intervention. In this paper, I examine the reasons commonly given to justify
prolonged suicide intervention and extrapolate their faults. Given the strong value
placed on autonomy, the common arguments for prolonged suicide intervention are
fatally flawed.

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