Euthanasia: a Foucauldian analysis

Lewis, Tracey
Payne, Debbie
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

The topic of this study, euthanasia, has become a modern-day issue that challenges some of societies traditionally held beliefs towards death and dying. This study drew upon the theoretical insights of Michel Foucault to provide a discursive analysis of the term euthanasia, and the issues surrounding the "right-to-die". It involved an analysis of primary texts from; nursing, general, and legal literature as well as the media between the years 2002-2004. Drawing upon data researched, the study analyses the main discourses regarding the practice of euthanasia for terminally ill individuals. The two competing discourses that emerged were what I have termed the sanctity-of life-discourse and the right-to-die discourse. The aim of the study was to uncover the discourses understanding of "truth" regarding the right-to-die. The analysis revealed that a small percentage of cancer sufferers (5%) die with their pain insufficiently treated and the right-to-die discourse claims that no individual should have to suffer needlessly, asserting the individuals right to autonomy. Directly opposing this is the sanctity-of life-discourse which states all life is sacred and nothing can justify euthanasia as an acceptable practice in society. My findings indicate the need for effective palliative care and pain management when caring for the terminally ill individual. The legal, ethical and moral implications of euthanasia are many and this study discusses the effects these may have on health professionals involved with the care of terminally ill patients. The study revealed an increasing deployment of the right-to-die discourse in the media and revealed concerns regarding the nursing professions lack of preparation to deal with euthanasia if it becomes a legal option in end of life care.

Euthanasia , Moral and ethical aspects , Terminally ill , Pain , Right to die , Life and death, power over , Palliative treatment , Health studies
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