The Morality of Active Vs Passive Euthanasia

Document Type:Essay

Subject Area:Philosophy

Document 1

The act needs to be performed by another person and is meant to result in the patient's death. In passive euthanasia, the other person withholds from administering treatment or life-supporting measures from a suffering patient thus permitting the natural series of events to unfold1. This is also a form of euthanasia since in that case the withdrawal of treatment from a patient will obviously lead to their death. In some instances, passive euthanasia causes a slow yet painful death to the individual due to the sickness that the individual was suffering from. Generally, the act of killing has been perceived as a moral misconduct while letting die has been thought to be morally acceptable in a few cases. Euthanasia is not only limited to the people going through uncontrollable physical pain3.

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People will terminal illnesses which limit the movement and functioning of their body or lead to mental deterioration may also wish for death instead of living in dependence on their loved ones or because of the loss of their dignity. People in such situations at times wish to die to terminate their lives. Furthermore, reasons of beneficence and autonomy are normally used to justify euthanasia in such cases. Advocates of passive euthanasia support their argument based on the right of an individual to refuse treatment. Therefore, he requests the doctor to assist him in bringing about his own death. Assuming that the doctor agrees to the patient's request as per the conventional doctrine which states that he may, the justification for him agreeing to this request is that the patient is experiencing terrible pain and because he would eventually die anyway, prolonging his agony needlessly would be considered wrong.

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I a doctor decides to withdraw treatment, the patient may take longer to die thus exposing him to suffering more than if direct action was taken and a lethal dose of a drug was administered5. This provides a firm reason for believing that once the initial decision to terminate a patient’s agony has been made, active euthanasia is really preferable to passive euthanasia. This is because the process of allowing a patient to die may turn out to be relatively slow yet painful while giving someone a lethal injection is relatively quick yet painless. Once the patient has refused treatment, the intentions of the doctor become meaningless and only the patient’s intentions become meaningful. It is thus misleading to consider the intentions of the doctor since in many cases, he is only complying with the laws forbid unwanted treatment.

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In any case of euthanasia, whether active or passive, it can be easily argued that the intent is not mainly to terminate a person's life, rather, it aims at putting an end to the suffering of the patient. Some philosophers argue that in both active and passive euthanasia, a person may intend to cause death to another person and in both a person may intend to cause death as a way of ending the suffering of an individual8. The best way of explaining a person's intent in both types of euthanasia is that one causes the death of a patient since it is the only solution to his/her suffering. Philosophers like Gay- Williams, however, argue that euthanasia is morally wrong since it involves killing.

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He bases his argument from the arguments of nature, self-interest and practical effects. From the argument of nature, Gay-Williams believes that humans are by nature geared towards the goal of survival. Therefore, Euthanasia goes against such a natural goal and thus harms the natural dignity of humans. Therefore, euthanasia whether active of passive denies humans of their basin human character11. For example, letting children die of hunger in the third world is equally wrong as shooting them to death. Therefore, if the intentions are similar, if the motives are similar, if the consequences are similar as well as other moral factors, then it is just as good or bad to let children die of hunger as it is to shoot them to death.

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