Palliative Sedation (Part II). Ethical questions and moral principles


  • Paulina Taboada R. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


This article analyzes some of the most controversial ethical questions related to the use of sedation at the end-of-life. Among these questions are: 1. Whether there is an ethically relevant difference between Palliative Sedation (PS) and euthanasia and physician-assisted-suicide; 2. Whether the principle of double effect can be appropriately applied to justify the use of sedation at the end-of-life; 3. Whether PS might be ethically acceptable in the case of patients that are not mminently dying (agony); 4. Whether decisions to limit care and to withdraw medically assisted nutrition and hydration are a necessary condition for PS; 5. Whether sedation is an adequate response to psycho-spiritual symptoms, including ‘existential suffering’; 6. Whether sedation could be used in patients who are not able to give their informed consent (e.g. patients with cognitive impairment of diverse origins). Ethical- and anthropological reflections are proposed for each of these questions. Reference to some general ethical principles is made, such us: the inviolability of human life; respect for the dignity of the dying; the therapeutic principle and proportionality in medical care; the principle of double effect; respect for a responsible exercise of freedom (autonomy); justice and solidarity.


palliative care, deep sedation, terminal care, hospice care, euthanasia