What is Euthanasia
• Greek ‘eu’ meaning ‘easy’ and ‘thanatos’ meaning
‘death.’ = easy death
• Intentional premature ending of another person’s life
• Patient consents to it = voluntary
• Patient does not request e.g. in a coma = non voluntary
• By direct means – active euthanasia
e.g. lethal injection
– passive euthanasia e.g. withholding
medicine, life support
• James Rachels saw no
distinction between active
euthanasia and passive
• He believed passive euthanasia
was worse as it is cruel and the
process of dying may be long
and drawn out.
• Argument from Proportionality:
suffering of illness vs. suffering/
pain of death.
This is the debate known as: Acts and omissions
This is one of the classic ideas in ethics. It says that
there is a moral difference between carrying out an
action and merely omitting (stopping/ refraining from)
carrying out an action.
Suffering/ pain/ quality of life – who
• Stephen Hawkins • Nick Vujicic
• Personhood: what separates a human being from a
• If someone is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS)
are they still a person?
• Some argue that someone in a PVS is still human but
not entirely a person so euthanasia is a logical
• The problem is where is the line drawn?
• If we distinguish between human and person and
permit euthanasia on this basis: if you are an
incomplete person (cant talk, walk, blink …) does this
mean euthanasia is acceptable?
British woman denied the right to die.
Suffered Motor Neurone Disease
Argues that she should be allowed to die with dignity.
“The law has taken all my rights away.”
Don’t forget Tony Nicklinson more
However many believe that because Palliative Care is available then
euthanasia should not be allowed.
(End of life care includes palliative care. If you have an incurable illness,
palliative care will make you as comfortable as possible by controlling
pain, while providing psychological, social and spiritual support for you
and your family or carers. This is called a holistic approach, as it deals
with the "whole" person rather than just one aspect of care.)
• Many fear that if euthanasia was made legal then the
‘slippery slope’ would happen
• Value of human life will decrease based on
economics (Saving NHS/family money) and personal
• However Helga Kuhse challenges
the ‘slippery slope’ argument
• Situation in the Netherlands is not
following the example of Nazi
Germany in making some lives
valueless for reason other than
mercy or respect.
• (Utilitarian bioethicist, was the
president of the World Federation
of Right to Die Societies)
However Daniel Maguire :
•Important to respect and value life but should
not be obliged to prolong it in every situation.
•Reject that God alone has the power over life
•If God alone decides time of death does this
mean we are no more than God's property?
•We intervene to save life and preserve it
there is no real difference between ending life
and preserving it
• Germain Grisez and Joseph Boyle stress the
importance of personhood
• Reject view that one can cease to be a
person and yet be bodily alive
• A person in PVS has not lost what makes
them a person – humanity and personhood
are one and bodily life is good within itself.
• Euthanasia is against the basic good of life.
Peter Singer – quality of life
• Sanctity of life ethic needs
to collapse and a new ethic
• People now believe that a
person with a low quality of
life can judge for
themselves to want to end
their own life.
• Bentham (Act):- more pain to person and family to keep alive =
• More happiness created if resources e.g. hospitals beds and
money used to help others.
• Applies hedonic calculus to all situations
• Organ donation?
• Mill (Rule): - can someone in PVS experience higher pleasures?
• Principle of Utility: focuses on happiness of patient/ family..
• Consent important
• Harm Principle
• Altruism – selfless love
• Links to Golden Rule: -Treat others…..
Singer: Euthanasia is based on preferences of
individuals so if the individual wanted
euthanasia ‘preference utilitarianism’ would
Wants to reduce pain rather than maximise
happiness This view would support euthanasia.
R.M. Hare: put yourself in others shoes – if you
were in that situation what would you want?
Duty of a doctor to preserve life : Hippocratic oath
“I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest
any such counsel” ... The Hippocratic Oath
Categorical Imperative: First formulation – universalizability
what happens if everyone that wanted euthanasia was allowed
1.Lying Promise: Hippocratic oath
2.Suicide: Assisted Suicide
3.Refraining from helping others: can euthanasia not be seen as
a way to help one another?
Euthanasia used as a means to getting inheritance/ save
medical bills/ NHS money
• Preservation of life = euthanasia goes against this
• Does allow for patient to refuse treatment.
• Doctrine of Double effect can be applied (e.g morphine)
• Life support machine = unnatural – God is taking away
life that we are keeping alive on support machine
• Does this mean that all medicine/ interventions that
keeps us alive are unnatural? E.g. Pace makers
• This is in line with Preservation of life
• However Natural Law argues that we are given freewill
and God given ability to Reason – are Doctors not using
their reason to preserve life (intention good to create life
support machines) = natural progression
ChristianSituation Ethics: Joseph Fletcher – agape – what is the most
loving thing to do?
Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated yourself
Absolute views– Old Testament – Decalogue “Do not murder.”
Relative views: Jesus' teachings of forgiveness, love, mercy
Beatitudes (Matthew) – Blessed are the merciful.
All life is sacred: Imego Dei (made in the image of God) with a
‘Spark of Divinity’.
Hospices available to help ease suffering
Pope said that to cause death in this way was “a grave
violation of the law of God.” – link to Natural Law
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