Euthanasia 6 types –Involuntary, voluntary, non-voluntary –Passive, active
Utilitarian thoughts Act utilitarianism –Look at each act of euthanasia individually; not making a rule –Involuntary: person doesn’t want to die, so is made unhappy by the thought of their death –Voluntary: person does want to die, often believing they will be less unhappy by dying
Morality v. legality One of the most common arguments against euthanasia is the possibility of abuse (pressure from relatives) or bad choices (from pain or depression). Whether a practice should be legalized is a separate debate from whether it is moral acceptable. These arguments are only relevant when looking at rule utilitarianism.
Metaethics and practical ethics Act utilitarianism says that the (objectively) right thing to do may vary in different situations (including what people want). This is different from saying that what is right is subjective. Don’t get into metaethics –The premise of practical ethics is that we are searching for the (or a) right thing to do. So don’t start talking about relativism or subjectivism.
Kant on suicide Euthanasia is sometimes called assisted suicide. Kant argued that people who commit suicide destroy their rationality in service to something else – pain. –So asking for euthanasia does not show respect for our own rationality. This doesn’t cover cases in which the person loses their reason.
Kant on suicide We may agree that rationality is what bestows dignity on human beings, and we must respect people’s dignity. –A human being who may lose their dignity through illness may legitimately request euthanasia. We respect and protect their dignity by helping them die in circumstances of their own choosing. But it is not right to help someone do something that is morally wrong.
Active v. passive euthanasia Is there a moral difference between active and passive euthanasia? Act utilitarianism: no Deontology: yes –Active: more like murder, in that there is intervention to cause death: justice –Passive: often combined with intended pain relief: charity
Justice and charity Justice: we must not kill people Charity: we should help others, not let them die –Not giving to charity is not as bad as actually killing people the money would have saved –But not providing your child with food is murder.
Justice and charity In voluntary euthanasia, the person wants to die. –Do we have a duty not to kill even those who want to die? –Do doctors have a special duty not to kill their patients? –But doctors should do what is best for their patients, which may mean killing them.
The doctrine of double effect We may bring about a foreseen harmful effect in pursuit of a good end –The good end is intended, the harmful effect is unintended –If we could bring about the good end without the harmful effect, we would High doses of painkillers can bring about death more quickly
Two practical points Separate empirical (sociology, psychology) from philosophical –E.g. don’t spend long discussing whether or not a slippery slope would actually occur. The conclusion is often conditional –E.g. ‘if allowing voluntary euthanasia in some cases caused people to seek it wrongly, then it would be wrong to allow it at all’
Complexity So is voluntary euthanasia permissible? Utilitarianism –Pro: Individuals suffer differently –Con: It has bad consequences, so look at better alternatives Deontology –Pro: We should respect people’s choices –Con: Bringing about death unnecessarily is always wrong
Complexity Virtue theory (and deontology) –Active euthanasia is unjust? –(Passive) euthanasia is not unjust, and is charitable
Two final practical points Avoid oversimplification –Normative theories might not deliver just one answer, but give reasons both for and against. Noting this is important for evaluation. Don’t say ‘Who knows? Who can say?’ –You are the thinker – this is your attempt to try to say. –Why think practical ethics should or could be easy?