Case Study: An Ethics of Euthanasia

Why is Ms. Robaczynski’s act a killing?

Mary Rose Robaczynski, a nurse from the case, has disconnected the respirator of her comatose patient Harry Gessner and was charged with murder. From the medical point of view, Ms. Robaczynski has committed involuntary passive euthanasia. Nevertheless, undoubtedly her act was a killing.

Euthanasia can be generally defined as the act to end the life of a person, who has an incurable condition, in order to relieve him or her of suffering (Pereira, 2011, p. 38). There are five main types of euthanasia: voluntary (when a patient requests to be helped to die), non-voluntary (when a request is made by a sick person’s relatives, authorized medics, or even the courts), involuntary (committed without person’s knowledge or content), active (patient’s death is caused directly and deliberately, for example by giving an overdose of drugs), passive (when death is brought by an omission, for example by withdrawing or withholding treatment) (Euthanasia and assisted suicide, 2014, para. 8-14).

Euthanasia is one of the most controversial phenomena in the world of medicine. Despite it being legalized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and some states of the USA, in the vast majority of countries euthanasia is illegal and definitely is considered as a killing (Pereira, 2011, p. 38).

Killing is an act of causing the death of a living being. And that is just what Ms. Robaczynski has done. In spite of her words, that she was acting in the best interest of her patient and it was merciful, she had no right to make such an important decision. Even in the legislation of the countries, where euthanasia is allowed, the request for it must be deliberate, voluntary, and informed. But Ms. Robaczynski has committed involuntary euthanasia or intended killing.

From the religious point of view, the life of each person is sacred and given by God. That’s why no other person has the right to take one’s life. Thereby, Ms. Robaczynki’s act is a serious crime. She has broken the Hippocratic Oath and has deliberately done lethal harm to her patient. However, her only purpose as a health professional must be safeguarding sick persons’ lives as long as possible. Ms. Robaczynski wasn’t able to cope with her only task.

Could Ms. Robaczynski’s act be treated differently?

Let us suppose, that Mr. Gessner was conscious and asked to be disconnected from the respirator due to unbearable pain, or the request was made by one of his family members. And despite it having been illegal all the same, Ms. Robaczynski, feeling sorry for her patient, has complied with his request. In this case, we would consider such a situation as assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia. Nevertheless, Ms. Robaczynski’s act couldn’t be treated differently, as there is no moral difference between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. As a matter of fact, it still remains a killing. Maybe, the court could have treated Ms. Robaczynski’s actions differently, and she could have been acquitted, but from the ethical point of view, her act would still be inadmissible for medical workers. The only difference is that it wouldn’t have been her initiative and her total responsibility. Nevertheless, voluntary or involuntary, Ms. Robaczynski’s act could only be treated as intended killing.

Euthanasia is illegal in most of the world countries for a good reason. Statistics show, that developments in countries with legalized euthanasia are quite disturbing. The number of voluntary and involuntary euthanasia occurrences there have increased several times after legalization (Saunders, 2013, para. 7). However, the only true aim of health professionals is safeguarding patients’ lives. The main priority must consist in making high-quality health care and killing pain instead of killing the patients. Persistent requests for euthanasia will be utterly rare if patients are properly cared for, and perhaps there will be no need for nurses like Ms. Robaczynski to use extreme measures to relieve them from suffering.


Euthanasia and assisted suicide. (2014). Web.

Pereira J. (2011). Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls. Current Oncology, 18 (2), 38-45. Web.

Saunders, P. (2013). Euthanasia: The right to die can so easily become the duty to die. Web.

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1. NursingBird. "Case Study: An Ethics of Euthanasia." January 2, 2023.


NursingBird. "Case Study: An Ethics of Euthanasia." January 2, 2023.