The Hastings Center: War and End of Life Care

United States military medical personnel have a duty to treat enemy soldiers, but what about a suicide bomber who lives – do they have a duty to honor his wish to die? This is one of several dilemmas in end of life care specific to wartime that were explored at the 2010 annual joint ethics conference of The Hastings Center and the United States Military Academy, held at The Hastings Center on April 7.

For 31 years, The Hastings Center and the ethics faculty at West Point have had meetings to explore issues in military and medical ethics. Daniel Callahan, cofounder of the Center, gave an overview of the debates over end of life care, which date back to the rise of intensive care units and other life-prolonging medical technologies. “We thought living wills and improved palliative care would solve the problems, but they haven’t,” he said. “We were naïve.”