Introduction to the client situation
Borrowing from the film The Suicide Tourist, one of the hardest things to do is to counsel a terminally ill patient. As Dierickx, Deliens, Cohen, and Chambaere (2017) note, many terminally ill patients often request to be euthanized. Many US states do not allow euthanasia while some allow physician-assisted suicide. However, personal ethics would not allow me to encourage suicide even for terminally ill patients. Thus, the client situation that will be addressed in this paper is the presentation of a chronically ill patient, who is suffering from stage four lymphoma for advice on euthanasia. The paper will show that at times, personal ethics have to be put aside to cater to the needs of other people.
Why would you be personally challenged in working with this client?
I would find it challenging working with the client as I am not an advocate of euthanasia. Indeed, as Bruenig (2015) argues, assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is usually an act of mercy. Many patients that request to be euthanized are usually in great pain and understand that there is no cure for their illness. In many instances, family members usually play a key role in a patient’s decision on whether to be euthanized or not. Thirdly, patients that are on therapy turn to their counselors for advice on the same. As a counselor, I have to offer advice that is beneficial to my patient (Maria-Therese, Rukumani, Mano, Ponrani, & Nirmala, 2014). However, in regards to assisted suicide, I believe that death should be a naturally occurring event. In the same way, people are dismayed by deaths caused by accidents; people should also be dismayed by deaths caused by assisted suicide.
Despite my personal views on euthanasia, I am not oblivious to the fact that some terminally ill patients experience pain all the time. Such patients are often put on medication to help relieve the pain. However, the anxiety of death can make such patients paranoid and add to their emotional suffering. Towards this end, thus, euthanasia is done in the interest of the patient. I would have to deal with my concerns and advice the patient in a professional manner.
Name two best practices to help you work effectively with this client
The first best practice is open-mindedness. As stated, I would be challenged working with the client due to personal ethics. Open-mindedness allows an individual to analyze the larger picture and make the best out of the situation. In this scenario, the patient is my priority. Thus, his or her needs should be given importance over my personal feelings. It is important to note that the assumption is that I am working in a state that allows euthanasia and assisted suicide. Open-mindedness will also help me develop other skills that make me a better counselor. For example, by being open-minded, I will also be more empathic. De Villiers (2016) argues that empathy is vital in counseling as it allows the therapist to understand the patient’s feelings. Empathy, however, does not refer to the personalization of the patient’s problems. The therapist should be careful not to get confused.
The second best practice is professionalism. It is this best practice that helps the therapist to empathize without getting personally involved in the patient’s affairs. Additionally, professionalism would help me work effectively with the patient as I would understand the sensitivity of the job. Zafar and Majid (2016) explain that counseling is an intimate type of work and requires respect both from the patient and the therapist. Understanding the vows I made as a counselor will assure professionalism.
Would you consider referring the client to another therapist? Why or why not?
I would not consider referring the client to another patient. As mentioned, counseling is a highly intimate type of job. Clients depend on their therapists to cater to their emotional needs well and without bias. Whereas referrals are not bad, they can at times affect the patient negatively. The patient might become insecure after the referral (Waqas, Fatima, Lodhi, Shareef & Ilahi, 2015). I would also not consider a referral as I have a duty to my patient to do my job well. As the therapist who has been seeing the patient since his lymphoma diagnosis, I am better placed to help him as he accepts his condition as compared to a new doctor.
In conclusion, counseling a terminally ill patient who wants to be euthanized will not be easy. The most significant challenge to dealing with such a patient is the fact that my ethics disapprove of euthanasia. I am not oblivious to the ideology that euthanasia helps patients in pain get relief. However, due to my social upbringing and religion, I believe that death should be naturally occurring. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are not naturally occurring. Despite my reservations, it is important that I advise the patient accordingly. Through open-mindedness and professionalism, I will be able to assist the client in the best way possible. Indeed, professionalism would ensure that I offer quality service to the patient. In turn, there would be no need to refer the patient to a different therapist.
Bruenig, E. S. (2015). How to think about your right to die. The New Republic, 246(9/10), 13-15.
de Villiers, D. E. (2016). May Christians request medically assisted suicide and euthanasia? Hervormde Teologiese Studies, 72(4), 1-9.
Dierickx, S., Deliens, L., Cohen, J., & Chambaere, K. (2017). Euthanasia for people with psychiatric disorders or dementia in Belgium: Analysis of officially reported cases. BMC Psychiatry, 171-9.
Maria-Therese, A., Rukumani, J., Mano, P. P., Ponrani, & Nirmala. (2014). A study to assess the level of attitude towards euthanasia among health personnel. Nitte University Journal of Health Science, 4(4), 18-22.
Waqas, A., Fatima, N., Lodhi, H. W., Shareef, W., & Ilahi, M. (2015). Association of attitudes towards euthanasia with religiosity, emotional empathy and exposure to the terminally ill. Journal of Pakistan Psychiatric Society, 12(1), 43-46.
Zafar, A., & Majid, S. (2016). Impact of depression, anxiety and stress on attitude of caretakers of terminally ill patients towards euthanasia. Indian Journal of Health & Wellbeing, 7(9), 889-892.