Ethical Responses to Euthanasia

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Ethical Responses to Euthanasia
2013-05-12 16:38:54

Responses to Euthanasia
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  1. Utilitarian approach to Euthanasia?
    • Bentham's Hedonic Calculus can be used to weigh up the pleasure and pain caused by two courses of action
    • - in this case, helping someone to die, or not doing so.

    Bentham would consider the Intensity of the pain and its Duration.

    He would have to weigh that against the number of people affected (Extent), and consider whether keeping someone alive woud lead to other pleasures (Richness).

    He would also need to add up the amount of other 'pains' the patient would face e.g. loss of dignity (Purity).

    and consider the chances that there' might be a cure or treatment in the future (Certainty).

    The pain is immediate, while possible future benefits are Remote.

    • Mll did make a distinction between higher and lower pleasures, which can be shown effectively here:
    • Thomas Hyde was 27 when Dr. Kevorkian helped him to die. He had ALS - the same condition that Stephen Hawking has. For Hyde, an athletic man, the thought of never using his body again was too much.

    Mill would argue that if his maind were still working, Hyde should have been able to enjoy a happy life.

    Someone with Alzheimers would be a different story, as Mill would see little benefit in continuing with life if your mind wasn't working properly.
  2. Kant's approach to Euthanasia?
    For Kant, the outcome of an action is not relevant to whether or not it is ethical.

    He also disagreed with making moral choices out of compassion, kindness etc.

    It is also easy to give an example of where kindness leads to doing the wrong thing (the road to hell is paved with good intentions).

    The only right thing is to do what reason dictates.

    Universalising the maxim "I should help [George] to die" would give a universal law that everyone should be helped to die - a self-contradiction.

    f you took the maxim "I should help George, who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and desparate to die, to die" you might create a more acceptable universal rule,

    Some people believe that people can die when they lose the 'will to live'. It may not be too hard to imagine someone wanting to die being a factor in their death according to laws of nature.

    Kant may have said that killing someone to end their pain was using them to another end.

    Other Kantians might argue the opposite - that a person's ends are best served by ending their misery.
  3. Natural Law approach to Euthanasia?
    Natural Law theology has led to strong sanctitiy of life responses from the Catholic church. Natural Law deals in moral absolutes - secondary precepts that cannot be broken regardless of the situation.

    One of the primary precepts is to 'protect and preserve the innocent'. It is therefore a secondary precept and an absolute moral rule that you should never kill an innocent person. It would seem that euthanasia is always wrong.

    However, we mustn't forget the principle of double effect. It is wrong to kill, but is it wrong to give someone pain relief if a secondary effect is that they die? Once you accept that death is merely a by-product of another action, you are asking a very different question. You are asking 'Is death a proportionate outcome?'
  4. Situation Ethics response to Euthanasia?
    Situation Ethics is easy to apply here.

    Quite simply, you can dispense with rules about killing, because the most loving thing to do may well be to give someone a peaceful death.

    Situation Ethics is Personal - it puts people before rules.

    It is also Pragmatic, allowing us to do whatever works best in the circumstances.

    Situationists may well be worried that a law that allowed euthanasia might put pressure on people who didn't want to die.

    They might argue that there need to be great safeguards against the misuse of any euthanasia rules.

    However, they are likely to argue in favour of allowing euthanasia. A situation ethicist would probably say that, even if euthanasia was not allowed, it may well be right to break the law and help someone to die.