Active V Passive Euthanasia Essay Research Paper

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Active V Passive Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper Euthanasia, derived from the Greek word “eu-thanatos” meaning simply “a good death”, is an issue that challenges our hearts and our minds. This paper attempts to identify and clarify the active/passive distinction inherent in the debate on euthanasia, before concluding, through an analysis of writers such as Rachels and Foot, that the distinction is in itself morally important. Passive euthanasia is defined as allowing a patient to die by withholding treatment, while active euthanasia is defined as taking measures that directly cause a patient’s death. Essentially, the terms active and passive address how close the causal connection is between an action and an individual’s death Those who state that active

termination of a patients life can never be justified appeal to many strong arguments in support of their assertion. Firstly, it is thought that if a person seeks to end their life through active euthanasia, then they intrinsically contradict the value of their autonomy; Secondly, active euthanasia violates the fundamental prohibition against killing, except of course in the case of self-defense or defense of others; Thirdly it is thought that there would be a general reduction of respect for human life if official barriers to killing were removed; and lastly it is believed that if made a public policy, active euthanasia could lead to involuntary euthanasia. Those who argue against active euthanasia understand that there is a demand for active euthanasia as a response “to the

fear of entrapment in a technologically sophisticated, seemingly uncaring world of medicine”. Nevertheless, it is my view that unrestrained freedom to end one’s life or to have it ended by a physician ought not to be the only response to that fear; nor is such a response without grave social implications. I agree with the conclusion of advocates against active euthanasia who state that there must be better palliative care for those who suffer tremendously and for the terminally ill, rather than to actively terminate their lives. In “Active and passive euthanasia,” a paper published more than 20 years ago, James Rachels challenges the doctrine that passive euthanasia can be morally permissible but active euthanasia cannot. He argues that killing someone is not, in itself,

worse than letting someone die. No distinction can be sustained, and so active euthanasia is not worse than passive euthanasia. In his view, we should decide whether euthanasia is permissible in a particular case, irrespective of the means by which death would be brought about with the view of favouring the means that is most humane. Consequently according to Rachels, in cases where a dying patient’s suffering cannot be adequately relieved by palliative care, active euthanasia should be favoured over passive euthanasia because it ends the suffering faster. Rachels observes and acknowledges the belief that actively killing someone is morally worse than passively letting someone die. Nevertheless he propounds that they do not differ since both have the same outcome: the death of

the patient on humanitarian grounds. It is his opinion that the difference between the two is accentuated because we frequently hear of terrible cases of active killings, but not of passive killings. Raches’ opinion that there is no important moral distinction between killing and letting die is best expressed through the example of Smith & Jones. In this hypothetical situtation Mr. Smith stands to gain a large inheritance if his young cousin were to die. Motivated by greed, Smith sneaks into the bathroom while the cousin is taking a bath and drowns her. Mr. Jones also stands to gain a large inheritance if his young cousin were to die, and he too sneaks into the bathroom, planning to drown her. Just as Jones enters the bathroom, the girl slips, hits her head, and falls face