“Words are magical in the way they affect the minds of those who use them. ‘A mere matter of words,’ we say contemptuously, forgetting that words have power to mold men’s thinking . . . to direct their willing and acting.” (Aldous Huxley, Words and Their Meanings, 1940).
Take a minute to discover what some of these words commonly used in bioethics really mean.
Advance healthcare directive: a form indicating the care a person wishes to receive in the event he becomes incapacitated and unable to speak for himself. This form is legally recognized and state specific; usually it does not require the services of a lawyer.
Aid-in-dying: help given to someone to choose the time and method of death; can involve physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Autonomy: the right of competent adults to make informed decisions about their own medical care.
Beneficence: the ethical obligation to do good and avoid causing harm.
Benefit: a desirable outcome or state of affairs, and it could be life-sustaining or making the patient more comfortable.
Bioethics: a discipline dealing with the ethical implications of life sciences, biological research, and applications especially in medicine.
Competence: the ability to make rational decisions for one’s self.
CRISPR: acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”, a genome editing tool that is cheaper and faster than previously used methods.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (DPAHC): form used by one person to empower another person to make healthcare decisions if the signer is unable to decide for himself.
Dying with dignity: a term used to refer to end-of-life decisions that involve a person’s voluntarily choosing the method and time of his death, The “Dying with Dignity” terminology is frequently used to promote assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Euthanasia: the deliberate killing of a human being for the stated reason of compassion. Sometimes divided into two subcategories: passive and active. Active requires a specific act that brings about death; passive is used for instances where treatment is withheld or withdrawn with the intent to bring about death.
Futility: without use. Term is often used to describe a intervention that is not seen as useful or beneficial to the patient.
Genetic engineering: is the process of manipulating, modifying, or otherwise altering the genetic materials or structure of an organism.
Hospice: care of the dying. Hospice is a service rather than a location. In the United States it can extend over a period of six months or longer. In hospice care, the emphasis is on keeping the patient comfortable, not curing the patient so the patient usually must forego curative care.
Mitochondrial transfer: an assisted reproduction technology whereby healthy cytoplasm from a donor is injected into an egg with defective or compromised cytoplasm.
Nutrition and hydration (food and water): basic care required for all human beings for as long as they live except in the immediate period before death.
Palliative Care: specialized care that recognizes a condition may not be curable so focuses on symptom control. It is not limited to pain medication, instead employing multiple modalities to relieve symptoms. But it may also be used along with curative or aggressive therapies
Persistent vegetative state (PVS): a permanent non-responsive state in which a person no longer or minimally reacts to his environment but is not yet dying.
Physician-assisted suicide (PAS): suicide that occurs with the help of medical personnel.
Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment: (POLST) checklist form frequently given to people to indicate their wishes should they suffer a medical emergency. This is a doctor’s order, is binding, does not require incapacity and accompanies the patient from facility to facility.
Pre-implantation genetic screening and selection: (PIGSS)selection of already fertilized ova for screening to determine if a specific gender or particular genetic traits are present.
Surrogate decision-maker: a person, such as a guardian, parent of a minor child, health care agent, or close relative, who is legally authorized to make decisions for another person when they cannot make decisions for themselves.
Terminal sedation (TS): sedation that is given to induce coma and eventual death; a form of euthanasia.
Vitalism: the belief that everything possible should be done to preserve life for as long as possible.
Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED): an intentional decision to stop eating food and drinking liquids for the specific purpose of causing death.