Ifeanyi Ernest ANIGBOGU


Right from the dawn of medical practice, no endeavour has been as demanding of the healthcare practitioner as the management of the terminally ill and the incurably ill. The exercise is a medico-jurisprudential nightmare for the patient, the healthcare provider, and the patient’s family. The assumption in medico-legal consideration is that for many patients at the threshold of death, the desire to die is understandable. This desire is implicitly recognized as lawful in law, by the recognition of the principle that a competent adult does have the right to refuse medical treatment even if the effect of it would mean death. In many a jurisdiction therefore, euthanasia in any of its forms is in the interest of the patient. Of course such an assumption is not only intellectually destitute, but absurd. The absurdity of such assumption stems from the fact that the thought that the patient is competent is questionable. A patient is not necessarily simply a combination of the formerly healthy person and the pathology causing agent or agents. It runs far deeper than that. A patient is the sum total, the dialectical product of the psychosomatic interactions and reactions between the aetiological factors, some pathogenetical repercussions, and the hitherto healthy macro-organism of the person. The competence to take life and death decisions on the part of the patient under such circumstances are anything but simple, and any assumption of such is intellectually mundane. It is not without good reason that in the management of such patients, psychotherapy remains an invaluable, salient constituent factor. Moreover, the drift of euthanasia down the slippery slope does not stand contemporary medical practice in good stead. The humble attempt of this author has been to elucidate the abuse of euthanasia, and proffer, in light of recent advancement in science and technology, more medico-jurisprudentially acceptable alternatives.

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