Anti-Depressants and the Dying

"What are some ethical issues surrounding the taking of anti-depressants? Does their mood-altering affect raise moral problems for people preparing their consciences for death? -- K.N., Augusta, USA."

"E. Christian Brugger, a Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation offers the following response: The principal purpose of legitimately prescribed medications is therapeutic, that is, ordered toward the restoration of health. People suffering from major depression, dysthymia (low level chronic depression), chronic anxiety, panic attacks or bipolar disease are suffering from real health disorders. Medicine has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that these conditions have a distinct biological dimension. Data indicates that that dimension can be positively benefited by antidepressant medications.

These conditions might also have what clinical psychology calls a behavioral dimension. And I firmly believe that one's voluntary choosing and thinking can contribute to the exacerbation or minimization of the effects of many psychic disorders. It is unquestionably the case that for persons diagnosed with these types of disorders, some behavioral changes will be necessary to restoring long-term therapeutic health. But antidepressants can and should sometimes be part of a comprehensive therapeutic plan.

That said, antidepressants can cause significant side effects that burden one's life, affect one's relationships and limit one's range of activity. Moreover, similar to wearing glasses, one's neurochemistry after taking antidepressants for extended periods can establish new levels of normality on the medication. And so people who cease taking the meds will sometimes feel worse than before going on them. Finally, the newer classes of antidepressants are very expensive and can burden one's budget especially during economic downturns such as our own.

In making a good morally informed decision about beginning or continuing treatment with one of these drugs, consideration of these possible burdens should be factored in."

For more see http://culture-of-life.org//content/view/671/98/, or http://www.zenit.org/article-30718?l=english
Reprinted with permission, CLF, 2011.

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