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Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
Euthanasia The act or practice of killing or allowing someone to die on grounds of
Passive euthanasia withholding some form of treatment, which, had it been
administered, would have prolonged the life of the patient
Active euthanasia Actively intervening to bring about a patients death
Voluntary Euthanasia patient has consented to the active bringing about of
his or her death or to some means of passively allowing her to die
Non-voluntary euthanasia those in which the patient ahs not expressed a
view about what others may do in case he goes into a vegetative state
Involuntary euthanasia Patient expresses, or is presumed to have, a desire
not to be the subject of euthanasia
Gay-Williams The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia
Defines euthanasia as the deliberate and intentional killing of someone passive
euthanasia is not relevant to this, as it is not killing, but letting die.
Aim of passive euthanasia is to spare the person additional and unjustifiable
pain, and hopeless manipulations
1. Argument from nature
a. Humans have natural inclinations to continue living; euthanasia runs
fundamentally against this principle.
b. Dignity comes from seeking our ends
2. The argument from self-interest
a. Contains an inherent risk of working against our self-interest; that is,
medical advances may emerge to save ourselves.
b. We cannot reconsider euthanasia: death is final
c. Euthanasia may occur to lessen financial strain et cetera for others
3. The argument from practical effects
a. Corrupting influence: doctors and nurses might not try hard enough
to save the patient.
b. The patient would be allowed to deputize others to make a decision,
and the slippery slope follows that this may be exploited to a certain
degree of eugenics.
James Rachels Active and Passive Euthanasia
Argues against the distinction in the American Medical Associations policy between
active and passive euthanasia. Questions whether killing is worse than letting die.
Once the initial decision is made to withhold treatment (the reason being
that the patient is in terrible agony, and it would be wrong to needlessly
prolong his suffering), active euthanasia is preferable and more consistent
with the reasoning.
States that the AMA policy denies that passive euthanasia is the intentional
termination of life.
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o Argues that there is no moral distinction between the two
Bonnie Steinbock The Intentional Termination of Life
Steinbocks essay is a response to Rachels, in that she insists there is a fundamental
difference between the two modes of euthanasia: intent, rather than result.
Emphasizes the difference between intending the patient to die and
foreseeing and expecting the death.
The cessation of life-prolonging treatment need not necessarily intend the
death of the patient
o Refusal of treatment: In this case, the cessation is valuing the prima
facie right of self-determination over treatment. Steinbock reasserts
though, that this is not the right to death
o Continued treatment has little chance of improving the patients
condition, and brings more discomfort.
She emphasizes the difference between ordinary and extraordinary
treatment the former being what all doctors should provide.
Dan Brock Voluntary Active Euthanasia
Brock argues for the moral permissibility of euthanasia for two reasons: the value of
autonomy and the value of well-being. He then argues that the moral-center
objection to euthanasia misrepresents the aim of medicine.
Everyone has unique conceptions of what constitutes a good life, and is
guaranteed the right of self-determination to pursue this conception.
o This right extends to the time and method of death, so long as the
patient is a capable judge, since it retains the dignity of the person.
Individual well being treatment may not be of sufficient quality, and such a
life may be worse than no life at all
These two values ONLY apply to competent and capable patients
The moral center of medicine should be committed to these two values.
Richard Doerflinger Pro-Choice or Anti-Life
Doerflinger objects to the moral permissibility of suicide by attempting to refute the
key arguments for it
o Doerflinger argues that pro-choice views prove too much: If death is
objectively preferable to life, than where is the line drawn?
o Argument against dignity Doerflinger states that when arguing for
Euthanasia, the point is to emphasize personal freedoms.
This is invalid because death deprives people of all future
It also detracts from the potential freedom of the future, in that
advances might be made
o Substituted judgement Others may end up deciding for the mentally
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o Expanded definitions of terminal illness If active euthanasia were
permitted, there is no reason to believe that this extended definition
would be limited
o Prejudice Against Citizens with Disabilities if definitions are
expanded to include people of severe physical or mental disability it
will increase patient pressure to choose death
o Character of the Medical Profession there will be increase in
pressure to make euthanasia and killing more accepted by society,
resulting in the loss of character of doctors.
o Human Will to Power humans enjoy exercising power over others,
this may lead to more problems in the future if the boundaries
between euthanasia and killing blur.
David T. Watts and Timothy Howell Assisted Suicide is NOT Voluntary
This paper focuses on the distinctions between physician-assisted suicide and
Voluntary Active Euthanasia Administration of medications or other interventions
intended to cause death at a patients request
Assisted suicide Provision of information, means, or direct assistance by which a
patient may take his or her own life.
This includes several possible levels of assistance, from providing
information to providing the means, to supervising the act. Each level has different
implications: The first allows for the most control in time and method, whereas the
last carries a great deal of physician control of the process. In this article, only the
first two are permissible.
Potential abuse of vulnerable persons
o Ultimate decision is the patients, not the physicians. There is a check
and balance placed on physician initiation and patient acquiescence.
o That the patient must him/herself apply commit the ultimate act acts
as a sufficient safeguard, and it is the physicians role in determining
whether or not these are unduly influenced.
o Assisted suicide does not have the same issues of consent associated
Potential undermining of trust between patients and physicians
o Though public opinion of physicians allowing euthanasia is low, it is
much greater for physicians allowing for assisted suicide.
o It is inhumane to allow to people to suffer for the sake of the integrity
of the medical profession
Potential for the weakening of societal resolve to increase resources for the
o Assisted suicide would not be used often
The Ethical Treatment of Animals
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Direct Moral Standing: Something that, independent of its relation to other things or
creatures, deserves to be given moral consideration by agents who are capable of
making moral choices. Some authors argue that this also comes with duties
Indirect Moral Standing: Something that deserves moral consideration only because
it is related to something with direct moral standing.
Gaverick Matheny Utilitarianism and Animals
Basic principle: One cannot reasonably claim that their interests mater more
simply because they are theirs.
Utilitarianism: An ethical theory that one should act in such away to
maximize the expected satisfaction of the interests in the world.
o Universalist: it takes into account the interests of all those who are
affected by an action.
o Welfarist: What is ethically good is defined in terms of peoples
o Consequentialist: It evaluates the rightness or wrongness of an action
by what the actions expected consequences are.
o Aggregative: It adds up the interests of all those affected by the action
o It is advantageous because it has a greater degree of empirical
objectivity than most ethical theories.
Interests of Non-Humans
o All sentient creatures have an interest in a pleasurable life.