Essay – Full mark 2018 essay on euthanasia & Natural law

October 8, 2018.

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Assess the view that natural law is of no help with regard to the issue of euthanasia. OCR Paper H573/2 June 2018

Here is an answer written in the actual June 2018 exam that secured full marks. I have added comments to demonstrate what is good and not so good about this answer. You don’t have to write a perfect answer to gain full marks. Read my comments in italics and see if you agree. PB

Natural Law is a religious ethical theory that puts reason at the centre of moral thought and decisions. Euthanasia is a modern practice where a person/persons can be killed on their own terms, whether passively (switching of a life machine) or actively (lethal injection). In terms of the practices of euthanasia and whether it should be accepted, natural law is of no help and instead situation ethics should be adopted to the issue of euthanasia.

There are a number of good things about this opening paragraph: it has a clear thesis – situation ethics is to be preferred, although the candidate might have briefly hinted as to why. The opening emphasises reason, a point many candidates miss. And there is a clear definition of two types of euthanasia, with good issue of brackets for economy. Ia m not sure that euthanasia itself is an issue – there are issues involved in the moral debate such as slippery slope arguments or sanctity of life arguments. These might also have been hinted at rather than taking a broad approach.

  Euthanasia is being widely adopted in modern western cultures as secularism is becoming more popular. There is more emphasis being placed on the quality of life rather then sanctity of life. Natural Law theory places special emphasis on the sanctity of life arguing that only God should have the power to take away a life.

Natural Law is an ancient theory deriving from the Greeks and particularly Aristotle. Aquinas took Aristotle and attempted to reconcile his theory of ethics with Christianity. So what the candidate is talking about here is Aquinas’ version of natural law which has been a dominant moral theory in the west, as it informs the moral theology of the Catholic Church. Note the synoptic link to the Christian Thought paper and secularism.

  Natural Law is focused on the primary precepts and upholding its main components; worship God, live in an ordered society, reproduce, to learn and to defend the innocent. Euthanasia goes against possibly three of these primary precepts, and is therefore forbidden under natural law. The secondary precepts would argue that euthanasia is wrong as it goes against the precepts of defending the innocent. Killing someone voluntarily or non-voluntarily and worshipping God as only God should be able to take life away. In a period where quality of life is emphasised, natural law is incompatible with modern culture. Natural Law upholds the sanctity of life and any practice taking away life is wrong – in a society which allows this natural law is outdated. Aquinas lived when the church dominated society and culture and now the church and state are separate, showing now natural law should be adapted.

Aquinas finally gets a mention.  The word ‘adapted’ is interesting as secondary precepts are meant to be adaptable, so Aquinas argues. Secondary precepts are ‘proximate conclusions of reason’. The candidate hasn’t really explored the tantalising hint in the first paragraph that natural law is a theory of human reason. I like the mention of three precepts here: for example, candidates often miss the implications that might exist for an ordered society if euthanasia was adopted (rise in court cases for example as relatives argue about whether passive euthanasia should be applied!).

  Natural law also prohibits euthanasia on the grounds of real and apparent goods. Killing someone passively is an apparent good because it does not achieve long-term gratification as the person would be dead. However this view can be criticised as a person’s suffering would be cut shirt so best for the long-term – there is no more suffering. Many agree with natural law also b saying that euthanasia sets a dangerous precedent and makes a possibility of a ‘slippery slope’ when killing becomes natural. This is against human nature.

There seems to be a misunderstanding here about what a real and apparent good is. According to Aquinas, we cannot willingly and rationally do evil because we are by nature orientated towards the good. So if we objectively do evil it is because we subjectively believe through a defect of our reason that we are actually doing good. Because of a lack of clarity this paragraph doesn’t take the argument forward and could easily have been deleted in its entirety.

  Another weakness of natural law is that it contradicts itself. Although the primary precepts prohibit euthanasia as it actively kills a person, the doctrine of double effect allows it. If a doctor keeps prescribing a patient more medicine, which eventually leads to an overdose, the is not the doctor’s fault and is permissible through the doctrine of double effect. This is a weakness as it seems to contradict earlier teachings from Aquinas. However it could also be seen as  strength of natural law. The doctrine of double effect is a better developed by the catholic church in response to situation ethics ; it allows euthanasia to certain degree as well as upholding religious aspects  – many see this as favourable and may provide a way to treat the issue of euthanasia.

It’s only a contradiction if you misunderstand the relationship between the absolute primary precepts and the secondary precepts which are never absolute. Aquinas, not the catholic church, introduces double effect way back in the thirteenth century – so it cannot be in response to the twentieth century theory of situation ethics.

Natural law is of no use to euthanasia and so situation ethics should be adopted. Joseph Fletcher was the founder of situation ethics and was at one point president of the euthanasia society in the USA. Situation ethics allows the practice of euthanasia as it focuses on the quality of life more. Firstly, Fletcher’s view of agape is much stronger as it accounts for the most loving thing to do. In certain situations, the most loving thing is to switch of the life support machine so that a person’s suffering is ended. The most loving thing to do allows the families of patients to say goodbye allows for patient’s to assess future possible situations themselves through living wills. Situation ethics follows the propositions of pragmatism, personalism, positivism and relativism. Each one important to the issue of euthanasia. Pragmatism allows a practical approach to euthanasia and where practicality of a situation is focused on. Personalism puts people above laws so full agape can be achieved. Although a partly legalistic theory situation ethics is also antinomian where people should be making their own decisions above the law. Positivism allows the practice of euthanasia because in most cases a positive effect is being produced. Relativism is most important because it allows the situation to be weighed on a case by case basis (natural law is unable to do this as it is absolute). These propositions provide more clarification on euthanasia and allow the issue of euthanasia to be clarified.

Natural law is not absolute in terms of its secondary precepts. The name Fletcher gives to his four principles is ‘working principles’ not ‘propositions’.

  Another supporting factor for euthanasia is the six principles which seek to fulfil agape. For example, the third principle that justice is love seemed upholds the value of love distributed. The other fundamental principles also seem to clarify how love is best served and how agape is applied in different situations. In the real case of Simon’s choice, a man was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and in months ahead lost control of his bodily functions and was dependent on support. Simon made the choice to go to Switzerland to die. Natural law would not have permitted this as it breaks the precept of the sanctity of life however situation ethics would allow Simon’s choice to die based on his quality of life. The shows the more practical and reasonable approach of situation ethics is more useful.

However, situation ethics can be criticised. By describing it as relativism, euthanasia is judged on a  case by case basis, which can lead to dangerous precedents. If someone is allowed to be euthanased because they are blind, it could influence other people. With sensory issues to seek euthanasia. Even if they have a decent quality of life. Euthanasia can thereby lead to a slippery slope, where euthanasia becomes too common. This raises the question of where to draw the line with euthanasia, and situation ethics provides no guidance on this. Also doctors swear by the Hippocratic Oath, to uphold the life of the patient. Situation ethics dismisses this – instead going against the doctor’s primary role. A judgement is made about the future: in some cases a patient may get better. Overall however, these weaknesses don’t create a strong enough basis for dismissing situation ethics.

On balance, therefore natural law is of no help in regard to the issue of euthanasia and instead situation ethics should be adopted. Situation ethics is stronger as it takes  a teleological approach seeking to uphold the quality of life – this secures someone’s autonomy and secular views which are being adopted by western societies – such as Switzerland. Natural law is also absolute and deontological, upholding the sanctity of life which seems outdated. The precepts are also incomplete with modern society Fletcher’s four working principles are much more practical and relevant. Overall therefore natural law is of no help with regard t the issue of euthanasia and instead situation ethics should be adopted.

40/40 Grade A*

What is excellent about this essay (and often not achieved by candidates) is the precise focus on the question set. The very clear thesis is referred to again and again, elaborated and clarified. The justification for the case is complete. You can reconstruct the question from the answer itself. However, the answer is rather long and a bit repetitive. If you can develop your won slightly tighter style, it allows you to add even more excellent analysis. One glaring omission in this answer is the failure to develop and discuss the idea that natural law is a theory of human reason, which is mentioned in the opening paragraph. There are two concepts Aquinas introduces to confirm this: synderesis (the intuitive knowledge of first principles – the primary precepts) and phronesis (the practical wisdom we develop to judge secondary precepts rightly and make nuanced judgements about the application of double effect). Being critical, I also feel there are a number of misunderstandings here – about real and apparent goods, for example and the persistent claim that natural law is absolute and contains hard rules like Kantian ethics. Aquinas never argues for a hard form of deontology. Human beings are designed by God to use our reason to face hard choices and take responsibility for them.

  My conclusion: to gain full marks you don’t have to have knowledge that’s 100% accurate, but you do need a strong argument, a clear thesis and a comprehensive analysis and evaluation that justifies your thesis. Candidates are often preparing for this exam in the wrong way – just by learning material rather than practising their analytical writing skills.

  Peter Baron October 2018

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141 Euthanasia Topics & Essay Examples

If you’re writing a euthanasia essay, questions and topics on the subject can be tricky to find. Not with our list!

📑 Aspects to Cover in a Euthanasia Essay

🏆 best euthanasia essay examples & topics, 💡 clever euthanasia titles, 🎓 simple & easy euthanasia essay titles, ✅ most interesting euthanasia topics to write about, ❓ euthanasia essay questions, 💯 free euthanasia essay topic generator.

Our experts have prepared a variety of ideas for your paper or speech. In the article below, find original euthanasia research questions and essay titles. And good luck with your assignment!

Euthanasia is the process of intentional life ending. Its goal is to stop patients’ suffering and pain. In today’s world, euthanasia is a debatable topic, and there are many questions around it. Euthanasia essays can help students to raise awareness of the process and its aspects. That is why it is crucial to research this issue and write papers on it. You can discuss various problems in your essay on euthanasia, as there is a broad variety of related issues. You can choose the one you are the most concerned about, search for euthanasia essay questions online or consult your professor. Here are some examples of euthanasia essay topics and titles we can suggest:

Once you have selected one of euthanasia essay titles, you can start working on your paper. Here are some important aspects to cover: Start from developing a solid euthanasia essay thesis. You should state the main idea of your paper and your primary argument clearly. A thesis statement can look like this: Euthanasia is beneficial for patients because it prevents them from suffering. Euthanasia can be equal to murder.

Please find our free samples below with the best ideas for your works!

IvyPanda. (2023, January 21). 141 Euthanasia Topics & Essay Examples.

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IvyPanda . 2023. "141 Euthanasia Topics & Essay Examples." January 21, 2023.

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Euthanasia (Argumentative Essay Sample)

Euthanasia is one of the subjects that have faced intense debate over time, the legalization of euthanasia have been debated for many years with different views presented in terms of  ethical and legal consideration for both patients and health care providers. Healthcare providers are faced with ethical dilemmas when caring for terminally ill patients. They are forced to make tough decisions by using their moral reasoning to overcome some of the ethical dilemmas related to euthanasia.

Euthanasia is viewed as murder, however, ethically; physician has the moral obligation to comply with patients’ decisions. Making such decision to either withhold or withdraw treatment for any patient is not an easy decision to make based on the cultural, religious and legal factors.  Death resulting to euthanasia is different between countries. Patients who experience extreme pain due to the nature of their illness are permitted to die with dignity in several countries while other countries totally condemn the use of euthanasia. Therefore, such individuals are among the few cases that continue to convince stakeholders to legalize euthanasia.

From a religious perspective; religious leaders see euthanasia to be unnecessary because for them, pain and suffering are not only a medical problem it is more than physical pain.  Pain and suffering are as a result of several factors; these include psychosocial, cultural and spiritual. Such views have changed the perspective of the debate about euthanasia.  The other aspect of euthanasia that has been ignored. It is a fact that the doctor has an obligation to fulfill patient’s request.

By not legalizing euthanasia is viewed as violating patient rights as the doctor refuses to help patients die. Even though many people are against euthanasia because it is viewed as murder, those who advocate for its usage view euthanasia from a different perspective. For them, the issue of cost and violation of human rights are the two most important arguments presented during euthanasia debates.  Even though those who support Euthanasia argue that it helps patients die with and help in containing the overall cost of treatment, others view Euthanasia as an immoral act. Other people view euthanasia as patient’s choice, not a physician; therefore, killing patients even when physicians have signed the code of ethics, is in line with the healthcare standards because the patient has the final say. The physician does not violate human rights.

I believe that there are valid reasons for patients to consider euthanasia because it saves both the patient and their family members from many financial burdens associated with terminal diseases. Euthanasia is the choice, and an alternative for patients who suffer immensely and their decision should be respected to help them alleviate suffering.  In many countries where euthanasia is permitted health care cost have been significantly contained. Patients with chronic illnesses do not have much choice but to die peacefully and with dignity.  Terminally ill patients are permitted to request from euthanasia to stop suffering.

Euthanasia remains one of the hot topics among many interest groups; some people believe that it is the only humane way to end suffering. Christians believe that humans have to undergo suffering because it’s part of God’s plan. In this debate considering the political, religious, legal and personal views all these people want to justify their reasons as to why euthanasia should be legalized or not. Euthanasia remains a debatable subject because of the varied views that might be valid to a certain point.

euthanasia essay a level


euthanasia essay a level

Essay On Euthanasia

What are the arguments against dying with dignity.

If people are able to live their life how they want to they should also be able to decide how they want their life to end. Euthanasia should be legalized because it would ease suffering, be less of a financial burden, and grant individual’s the right to die with dignity.

Ethical Subjectivism Euthanasia

Ethical subjectivism, also known as moral subjectivism, is a philosophical theory. This approach supports euthanasia in the sense of allowing the truth and rights of an individual to remain at a different level. Ethical subjectivism is a theory that suggests that moral truths are determined at an individual level, therefore making it your reality. Euthanasia is the painless killing of an aggressively tormented dying patient. I believe that euthanasia must be legal, and I agree with the whole logic and the procedure. I think that people should ultimately be relieved of torment because it goes against the virtues of being alive, it is your human right, it 'll benefit your loved ones not to witness you suffer any longer, and it should be considered treatment.

Pro Euthanasia Speech

There are many forms of euthanasia. Whether it’s active or passive, voluntary or non-voluntary, most of these forms are illegal in almost every country in the world. Passive euthanasia is refusing treatment and allowing illness or injuries kill you, however active euthanasia is what I’m going to talk about today. It generally consists of injecting a lethal chemical composite dose into the bloodstream that is meant to end your life in the most painless way possible. We live in a world that has opposing viewpoints on this subject; there are those who view it as homicide, and others who view it as the most sincere form of human compassion.

The Pros And Cons Of Voluntary Physician Assisted Suicide

Death is an option for those who are suffering and do not see life as it is anymore. They are slowly fading, and want to willingly be gone. Several see it as inhumane and religiously wrong, but need to consider the patients feeling and what they want. . Due to these reasons, assisted suicide should be considered legal. We are promised rights in the US, and the right to die should be one that is given without any question.

Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Doctor-assisted suicide, or euthanasia, can cause deaths under circumstances where the person is not mentally able to make that decision for themselves. Doctor-assisted suicide should be illegal because of how many unnecessary and unwanted deaths it has caused. Doctor-assisted suicide, or euthanasia, gives doctors too much power to kill, it also persuades powerless people to think about ending their life, and it makes patients who don 't actually want to die request it in belief that they are burdensome to the people around them. Doctors receive too much power from patients and medical facilities to assist suicide to patients with illnesses or patients who think they need to end their life in general. According to Cristian Nordqvist, euthanasia is known as "the means to take a deliberate action with the express intention of ending a life to relieve intractable suffering" (Nordqvist, Christian).

Essay On Euthanasia In Canada

Name: Yasamin Sadeghi Should Euthanasia be Legal in Canada? “A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.” -Andrew Coyne.

Essay On Physician Assisted Suicide

Everybody has a right to make a choice. When a person goes to a restaurant, that person has the right to make choice of which entree to eat. However, sometimes a person might not be able to make a decision, such in case of person who is bed bound or a person with a terminal illness. I believe that Physician-assisted suicide should be available as an option for those who can and can’t make decisions for the following reasons cost and ending deterring quality of life.

Rachel And J. Gay-Williams Argument Analysis

Others may also choose euthanasia too soon, weakening the body’s chance to fight an illness. A person may also choose euthanasia for selfless reasons (e.g. they see their spouse suffering from hospital visits or going into debt). J. Gay Williams third argument, the argument from practical effects, is what I find most convincing. He speaks about euthanasia going against doctors and nurses very commitment which may therefore lead to an “overall decline in medical healthcare” (Rachels, RTD, 357). It is also may cause a ripple effect in regards to killing (Rachels, RTD,

Argumentative Essay On Euthanasia

When you hear the word death or you hear that someone has died today in the news or on the television I know a lot of people think “Man, I feel sorry for the family that they have to go through that.” or they thank god that it was not them or their family members.” Sadly though people try to push away death and push away the fact that everyone dies at one point in time. This is even truer when they witness their own family member in the hospital with a critical condition that the doctors cannot fix even with modern medicines on the doctor’s side. Another such time would be when a person’s family member is diagnosed with an incurable sickness that is fatal. What would you do in that moment when “death is knocking on their door” or they are about to die? Some people may answer this question by saying keep them alive by using artificial means. I say no. I firmly believe that this is wrong and you are only prolonging their suffering. Euthanasia is what I believe is the right thing to do in these cases if the sick person would rather go that route. People may ask “Why is it the right thing to do?” In order for people to have an answer to that question they must first know what Euthanasia is and how that if you have the mind set of all life is precious like Kant’s exert in the article of euthanasia chapter three of contemporary moral issues you are being selfish.

Euthanasia is the end of a person that was suffering from an illness or a traumatic accident in the past that has affected them and changed them to a different person. Most of these people find them self to believe they are a nuisance to others such as family members or some care givers. Euthanasia is the process of end a live of someone in great suffering to relive the pain of whatever caused it in the first place. Euthanasia is one of the most controversial topics because of religious purposes or the choice of choosing a sooner death.

Persuasive Essay On Euthanasia

Euthanasia, also known as assisted suicide, is the act of permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured patients. This is never suggested by the caretaker rather than requested by the patient or their family. Few areas such as the Netherlands have already legalized this practice. This debate, as split as a fork in the road, is over whether or not this approach should be legalized worldwide on stances regarding religion, ethics, and self choice.

INTRODUCTION Euthanasia alludes to the act of deliberately close a life keeping in mind the end goal to assuage torment and enduring. There are different euthanasia laws in each country. The British House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics defines euthanasia as "a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering".[1] In the Netherlands, euthanasia is understood as "termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient"". Euthanasia is sorted in diverse ways, which incorporate voluntary, non-voluntary, or automatic.

Ethical Essay: The Role Of Euthanasia In Medicine

The word “euthanize” means to bring about a person’s death to relieve them from serious distress. The topic of euthanasia in medicine has evolved since intensive care was first instituted. Before the 1950’s, a simple model was used to determine when someone was dead: the individual was dead when his or her heart stopped beating. In the modern light, the answer to this question isn’t as clear. With advancements in organ transplantation and other medical technologies, the stopping of a beating heart is no longer a definite death sentence. This prolonging of life brings about many ethical dilemmas in the field of medicine. One of the issues is patient autonomy. The practice of euthanasia has been established to put the choice back into the hands of the patient. To better understand euthanasia, there are five different types.

Have you ever imagined one of your loved ones suffering from a painful illness? Have you ever wanted that person to die and rest in peace? This is called Euthanasia, which means the termination of a patient’s life who is suffering from excruciating pain and a terminal disease. Euthanasia came from the Greek for good (“eu”) and death (“thanatos”) “good death”(Sklansky, (2001) p.5.) There are more than four types of euthanasia such as active euthanasia, which means that death is caused directly by another person by giving the patient a poisonous injection. Passive euthanasia refers to the withdrawal of treatment that keeps the patient alive. Voluntary euthanasia means that the patient requests assisted suicide, while involuntary euthanasia means that it is done against the patient’s will. Euthanasia started in both the Roman Empire and Greece. In ancient Rome, euthanasia was considered a crime and was taken as murder. In general, Greece accepted euthanasia for patients who are suffering from extreme pain. Plato wrote “Mentally and physically ill persons should be left to death, they do not have the right to live”(A General History of Euthanasia, (n.d.) p.1 ) Sir Thomas More was the first prominent Christian to mention euthanasia in his book Utopia. Then, in the 18th century, Prussia passed a law that reduced the punishment of a person who killed a patient with an incurable disease. In the 20th century, euthanasia became a heated topic among numerous individuals, who

Euthanasia can be interpreted in different ways depending on the person/point of view. Euthanasia is another word for mercy-killing, those who are in great pain and their treatments show no sign of progress can choose euthanasia as an option to die mercifully and with dignity. When a person goes through euthanasia, they consume a euthanasia solution through a vein or by drinking it. Then, they rest as the solution kills them. There have been many controversies on whether euthanasia should be legalized. For example, people have argued for the right to live and the right to die. The term, euthanasia, is sometimes misinterpreted and not thoroughly analyzed by others to be truly understood why its controversies exist.

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Ocr a level religious studies - euthanasia a* essays.

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Ethics for A-Level

Part iii. applied ethics.

Chapter 7. Euthanasia

Chapter 7. Euthanasia

Texte intégral.

His enemies put it bluntly. Singer says it’s OK to kill disabled babies. Singer says seriously damaged human beings are on a par with apes. Singer says it would have been OK to kill his own mother. These charges are spat out of the sides of their mouths. One theologian I spoke to said contemptuously, ‘Peter Singer takes the most basic human instincts and tries to reason them out of existence. What does he expect us to do, hug him?’ 1

1. Euthanasia Introduction

1 There is an old adage that only two things in life are certain — death and taxes. While the morality of the latter would be an interesting topic itself (and you may look to issues discussed in Chapter 8 for some inspiration), it is the morality of an issue connected to the former that draws the focus of this chapter. Specifically, we consider the ethical issues surrounding euthanasia (sometimes labelled as “mercy killing”).

2. Key Terms

2 The etymology of euthanasia helps to reveal the meaning of the term. Like most upstanding and respectable philosophical terms, euthanasia has its roots in Ancient Greek language; it is based on a combination of the terms eu meaning “well” and thanatos meaning “death”. Euthanasia is thus the act of seeking to provide a good death for a person who otherwise might be faced with a much more unpleasant death — hence the term “mercy killing”.

3 There are different ways to categorise the various types of euthanasia and it is critical to be confident and familiar with these categorisations.

Voluntary Euthanasia

4 Voluntary euthanasia occurs when a person makes their own choice to have their life terminated in order to avoid future suffering.

Non-Voluntary Euthanasia

5 Non-voluntary euthanasia occurs when a decision regarding premature and merciful death is made by another person, because the individual to be euthanised is unable to make a decision for themselves. This form of euthanasia is most commonly associated with young infants or patients in a coma who cannot, due to the nature of their age or condition, make any decision for themselves.

6 The above offers a differentiation of types of euthanasia in terms of the person making the decision. In addition, we can differentiate between types of euthanasia based on the method involved in ending a life.

Active Euthanasia

7 If a person is actively euthanised it means that their death was caused by external intervention rather than natural causes, most likely through a lethal injection or the voluntary swallowing of a deadly cocktail of drugs.

Passive Euthanasia

8 Passive euthanasia occurs when a person is allowed to die due to the deliberate withdrawal of treatment that might keep them alive. Thus, a person who is passively euthanised is allowed to die via natural causes even though methods to keep them alive might be available. A person who has a life-support machine switched off, for example, dies via natural causes but only as a result of a decision to allow natural causes to take effect.

9 Although euthanasia that is both voluntary and passive is not particularly common, euthanasia could come in any combination of methods and decisionmakers as laid out. Legality of the forms of euthanasia varies from nation to nation; Belgium allows for voluntary and active euthanasia, the UK does not.

10 In the next two sections, we outline two different forms of medical afflictions that will ground discussion of arguments in favour and against the varying forms of euthanasia. As an applied ethical issue, it is important to make ethical claims in the light of practical and real-world factors.

3. Case One: Persistent Vegetative State

11 A person is in a Persistent Vegetative State (hereafter PVS) when they are biologically able to support their own continued existence, but they have no meaningful psychological interaction with the world around them. A patient in a PVS, according to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, can neither follow an object with their eyes nor respond to the sounds of voices and will show no discernible sign of emotion. The vegetative state is defined as persistent when the condition is in place for up to a year and doctors view no prospect of recovery as plausible. The PVS label may seem crude or upsetting, but the message about the difference between the physical and the psychological state of the patient is stark.

12 In the US, Terri Schiavo fell into a PVS when she suffered oxygen deprivation to her brain as a result of a heart attack. Although she survived the heart-attack, her husband ultimately came to the view that her continued existence was not desirable and that she would be better off being allowed to die.

13 In the United Kingdom, the parents of Tony Bland — a victim of the Hillsborough football disaster in 1989 — made a similar decision regarding the life of their son after he fell into a PVS. Tony Bland’s parents campaigned for their son to be allowed to “die with dignity” rather than continue existing in his emaciated state. One can only attempt to imagine the emotional turmoil for the relatives in such cases and it is worth mentioning that Terri Schiavo’s parents ultimately fought a legal battle against their son-in-law in attempt to ensure that Terri was not allowed to die.

14 When considering the morality of euthanasia for patients in a PVS, it is clear that we should be considering only non-voluntary euthanasia, due to the fact that such patients are clearly unable to make any kind of voluntary decision regarding their future interests. For the sake of simplicity, we will assume there are no relevant letter of intent from such patients, written in case they should lose their faculties, describing their desires should they fall into such a condition. However, you may find it rewarding to consider the moral implications of such a letter. Would the letter provide a voluntary decision that morally ought to be respected even when the patient is in a PVS?

4. Case Two: Incurable and Terminal Illness

15 Imagine a patient who has been diagnosed with an incurable disease that will ultimately bring about their death. As the condition progresses over time, the patient knows that their ability to live a normal life will decrease and that their physical suffering will increase. You can imagine for yourselves the range of diseases and conditions that may have such unfortunate effects upon a person.

16 Unlike the patient in a PVS, the patient in this example retains the ability to ask for euthanasia themselves and so these cases can highlight moral issues surrounding voluntary euthanasia. Again, for simplicity in our discussion, we do not consider where the line can be drawn regarding patients in fit or unfit psychological states when it comes to an ability to make a voluntary decision to be euthanised, although this is also an issue that would reward further moral thought.

5. Pro-Euthanasia: Argument One

17 In this section, we consider the first of the arguments in favour of the moral acceptability of euthanasia. This argument is a general argument and would apply to both non-voluntary and voluntary forms of euthanasia. However, the argument, if sound, would also seem to suggest that active euthanasia is more morally acceptable than passive euthanasia for reasons discussed at the end of this section.

18 This initial argument can be labelled as the argument from quality of life . According to this relatively simple idea, sometimes life is actually less preferable than death. On such occasions, when quality of life is so dreadful that a person would be “better off” dead, then euthanasia would be morally justifiable. Evidently, much turns on what counts as a worthwhile life. Recalling the section on well-being from Chapter 1, there are various philosophical positions that might seek to provide a criterion to measure the quality of a person’s life. A hedonist, for example, would suggest that the quality of a life depends on how much happiness/pleasure a person experiences; a supporter of a desire-satisfaction theory would suggest the quality of a life depends on how many of a person’s desires are satisfied; an objective-list theorist would suggest that the quality of a life depends on how many objectively valuable goods a person possesses — goods including, but not limited to, knowledge and love, for example.

19 Whichever one of these views a person supports, or even if they understand other factors as being determinants of the quality of a life, there can little doubt that a person in a PVS has, at best, a non-existent quality of life in virtue of their extreme psychological limitations. Suggesting that some form of consciousness is necessary to having any kind of quality of life, Jonathan Glover (1941–) says:

2 J. Glover, Causing Death and Saving Lives , p. 45. I have no way of refuting someone who holds that being alive, even though unconscious, is intrinsically valuable [valuable irrespective of the form of being alive]. But it is a view that will seem unattractive to those of us who, in our own case, see a life of permanent coma as in no way preferable to death. From the subjective point of view, there is nothing to choose between the two. 2

20 Deprived of happiness and other capabilities, the life of a patient in a PVS seems to be at best utterly neutral and at worst negative in respect of quality of life, perhaps depending on any experience of physical pain. Patients in a PVS are not merely bed-ridden like some who might have suffered severe strokes or other such afflictions; they are biological entities lacking the distinguishing psychological qualities of typical human beings. This may go some way to explain why some (but by no means all) partners and parents of people in PVS’s are willing to favour an end to the patient’s life.

21 The case of Diane Pretty is informative when considering the quality of life of a person with a terminal illness who is nearing the end of their life. Diane Pretty suffered from motor-neurone disease and although she remained mentally proficient, the worsening of her condition over time led her to request to be allowed to die quickly and without undue suffering. Although the point in time cannot be sharply labelled, it seems extremely plausible that many of those with worsening terminal illnesses will reach a point in time where their quality of life is non-existent or negative in virtue of their physical suffering and their inability to enjoy life, satisfy desires or acquire objectively valuable goods. I recall, as a young teenager, listening to Diane Pretty express her desire to be allowed to die and wondering how anyone could reach a point where they would not want to see one more sunrise or live one more day — these questions, I suggest, reflected more of my inability to empathise with her daily existence than they did with undue depression on her part.

22 Thus, if we focus on the quality of life for patients in a PVS, or for those nearing the final stages of a terminal illness, we may well grant that there is a time when quality of life either becomes negative or ceases to be relevant. If we suggest that a life with no discernible quality of life is not worthwhile, then euthanasia may appear morally justifiable.

23 If you find the argument from quality of life convincing, then you may judge that active euthanasia is far more morally defensible than passive euthanasia; after all the judgment that euthanasia is morally acceptable may seem to be the load-bearing judgment, with the choice of method more of a practical than a moral issue. Indeed, in this context, passive euthanasia might seem to be the worst of all worlds.

3 P. Singer, Practical Ethics , p. 186.

24 According to Peter Singer, “Having chosen death [as a morally acceptable course of action] we should ensure that it comes in the best possible way”. 3 The best possible way, if we remain interested in quality of life, might seem to be a lethal injection designed to send a patient painlessly to sleep before shutting down their organs, or a selection of drinkable liquids that have the same effect. The best possible way might not seem to involve turning off a life support machine or withdrawing proactive treatment in order to allow nature to take its course, when the course of nature may be directed by starvation, dehydration or secondary infections. Although these passively viewed deathcausing effects may be managed with pain killers, Singer’s relatively simple thought is that if death is deemed morally desirable, then why not simply provide death actively rather than passively?

25 In addition, if we recall the ideas of Situation Ethicist Joseph Fletcher (as outlined in Chapter 5) then we may wonder whether or not (assuming death is morally desirable) passively allowing death to occur is actually less loving than actively bringing death about. As a relativistic normative ethical theory, Situation Ethics provides no absolute guidance regarding the moral acceptability of euthanasia in any of its forms; situation-specific, practical and pragmatic judgments will need to form the basis of moral judgments in individual cases. However, it is important to consider how loving active euthanasia might actually be in the circumstance where the death of the patient is actually our ambition.

6. Pro-Euthanasia: Argument Two

26 The second argument we can offer in support of euthanasia — both in voluntary and non-voluntary forms — can be labelled the argument from resource use . Whereas the former argument attempted to defend the moral acceptability of euthanasia by utilising the perspective of the patient and their associated quality of life, this argument may seem a little more detached and you may or may not view this as a strength or weakness.

27 According to Peter Singer, the non-voluntary euthanising of a severely disabled and suffering young infant child (who cannot express any wishes regarding their future) may be justifiable on the following grounds:

4 Ibid. , p. 163. When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed . 4

28 Singer’s suggestion may sound callous, and if you view killing an innocent life as an absolute moral wrong then you may view his claim as immediately morally out of bounds (this kind of objection to euthanasia is considered in a later section). For now, however, let us take Singer’s claim at face value. Being a preference utilitarian (further detail on this theory is available in Chapter 1), Singer makes his judgment regarding how to act in such a case based on the quality of life of the individuals involved. So, on his view, the disabled infant may have a lower quality of life than a healthy child who might be born in their stead because the latter, and not the former, can secure greater preference satisfaction. Thus, we morally ought to bring about the situation in which the healthy child is born.

29 If we assume that those who are in a PVS, or those suffering near the end of a terminal condition, have a low quality of life then we might think that spending our limited medical resources on maintaining their existence, rather than spending those resources elsewhere, is not morally desirable. This kind of argument will appeal to a teleologist rather than a deontologist, for it ascribes moral values to actions based on consequences rather than duties . In this setting, the consequences of spending resources on PVS patients may be less positive than spending those same resources on effectively treating other diseases or funding medical research to benefit future generations.

5 Madison-St. Clair Record ,

30 Some financial figures may put this possible argument into context. According to the Madison County Record, Christina McCray (a patient in a PVS) had medical bills that average out to $ 250,000 per year. 5 If we consider the years of life that a patient in a PVS may have, along with the number of PVS patients that exist, then the cost of keeping such individuals alive becomes clearer. If medicine is sometimes about making difficult decisions, then it may become clear why non-voluntary euthanasia of such patients might be considered desirable (at least with the support of the family). In addition, if a patient with a poor quality of life, who is facing future suffering with associated expensive care, voluntarily requests euthanasia then it may be that their death will allow resources to be better directed to other patients who might have their suffering reduced more significantly.

31 It is worth noting, for those uncomfortable with this kind of resource allocation planning when it comes to treating ill, suffering and frail patients that decisions in the National Health Service are already being made in the light of teleological and quality-of-life based reasoning. The NHS utilises QALYs when making financial planning and treatment costing decisions. QALY is shorthand for Quality Adjusted Life Year, a measurement designed to consider the benefits of different treatment costs in respect of their payoffs to the patients involved. If a potential treatment will lead to a patient being free from pain and able to perform daily activities (this is a somewhat rough definition, but enough for our purposes) then the year in which this outcome is expected can be given a value of 1. Each following year can then be given a value between 0 and 1 according to the expected lasting impacts of the treatment. Thus, allocating spending to different forms of treatment for different patients can be objectively calculated against a common standard in order to inform those spending decisions in terms of where the better consequences might be secured.

32 The argument from resource use is, therefore, an extension of the use of a QALY to inform medical decision-making. If the positive consequences of spending money on treating patients who might be cured or helped to have a higher quality of life are greater than spending money to keep people alive who either wish to die and have a diminishing quality of life or who are in a PVS, then spending on the former is morally defensible rather than spending on the latter. Again, you might consider how loving it is to spend money keeping a patient in a PVS alive versus investing in research for cures and treatments that could improve the quality of life for other patients in a world where resources are finite.

7. Pro-Euthanasia: Argument Three

33 The final argument we will offer in favour of euthanasia is an argument often viewed as the most powerful in this applied ethical area, the argument from personal autonomy . This argument proceeds from the fairly plausible assumption that people should have the right to make their own decisions and should be able to decide the paths of their own lives. If the right to choose our own path applies in life, then why would this not apply in respect of our choice of how and when to die?

34 Perhaps the most famous philosophical proponent of a right to personal autonomy and decision-making was John Stuart Mill. As discussed in Chapter 1, Mill elucidated the harm principle, which suggested that the only legitimate government interference in a person’s life is to stop that person from harming others; all other interference is not to be justified. If you subscribe to this principle, then you seemingly must believe that a person voluntarily requesting euthanasia should not be denied the right to die, unless their dying would cause harm to another person. If we discount emotional harm (because many normal things that we do seem to cause emotional harm to other people — getting a job over another candidate, for example) then it is not easy to envisage a circumstance in which a terminally ill patient, requesting a merciful death before their suffering becomes too extreme, would have a death that causes physical harm to another person. Therefore, if we believe in the power and moral right of the individual to act in the way that they deem correct, unless physically harming another, then we must seemingly allow that voluntary euthanasia is morally justifiable. Singer sums up the position:

6 P. Singer, Practical Ethics , p. 195. … the principle of respect for autonomy tells us to allow rational agents to live their own lives according to their own autonomous decisions, free from coercion or interference; but if rational agents should autonomously choose to die, then respect for autonomy will lead us to assist them to do as they choose. 6

35 We have spoken above of voluntary euthanasia specifically, for the patient in a PVS obviously cannot choose how to die. If we return to the earlier mentioned possibility of a letter of intent , written prior to the condition taking hold, then in certain instances non-voluntary euthanasia may also be justified on this basis — though of course, such cases seem to a species of voluntary euthanasia.

36 However, if we would trust loved ones to make other important medical decisions for us if we were incapacitated, then perhaps the same should apply in this context and non-voluntary euthanasia might be justifiable in virtue of properly respecting the choices made by one relative on behalf of another. It is for you to consider if a theory of personal autonomy can be extended to familial autonomy in such a way.

8. Anti-Euthanasia: Argument One

37 Thus far we have only outlined pro-euthanasia arguments. In fact, we have really only provided pro-active euthanasia arguments in virtue of Singer’s suggestions regarding the undesirability of passive euthanasia. It is now time to give anti-euthanasia, and anti-active euthanasia, arguments their fair hearing.

38 The first objection to euthanasia may be termed the objection from Sanctity of Life . The Sanctity of Life ethic is usually founded on religious, and specifically Christian, thinking. Essentially, a belief that life is sacred suggests an absolute value to life, of a type that means it is worthwhile in all circumstances; in Glover’s earlier words it is the view that life has an intrinsic value that supersedes any qualitative aspect. For Sanctity of Life theorists and supporters as described in this section, problems with the quality of a life never undermine the ultimate value and worth of a life.

7 Genesis 1:26,

39 It is not necessary to be religious to hold the view that all lives are worth preserving, irrespective of quality. A non-religious person may prefer to speak of an absolute right to life that cannot be taken away through non-voluntary euthanasia, and cannot be revoked by personal decree in the context of voluntary euthanasia. However, more often, the view is supported by Biblical reference. In the Bible, we are told that God said: “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”. 7

8 1 Corinthians 3:16–18,

40 In addition, our bodies are described as sacred and as containing God’s Holy Spirit: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple”. 8 These quotes not only reveal the sanctity of our bodies and the cause of that sanctity — our creation in the image of God and the presence of God’s spirit within us — they also reveal the punishment for those who might take life; might this relate to doctors who administer euthanasia?

41 Whilst the arguments from quality of life and use of resources were avowedly teleological in nature, considering the painful and potentially costly consequences of continued life, the argument from Sanctity of Life is deontological in nature since it relates to a duty to avoid killing. Linking the Sanctity of Life view to both abortion and euthanasia, Mother Teresa gave a statement of the appeal of this ethical stance:

9 J. Chaliha and E. Le Joly, The Joy in Loving , p. 174. For me, life is the most beautiful gift of God to mankind, therefore people and nations who destroy life by abortion and euthanasia are the poorest. I do not say legal or illegal, but I think that no human hand should be raised to kill life, since life is God’s life us in us . 9

42 All human life, whether in the womb or in a PVS, is of sacred and God-given worth such that killing (including euthanising, as a form of killing) is morally impermissible.

43 The notion of a sacred life lays behind Catholic teaching on the issue of euthanasia. A 1980 Catholic Declaration of Faith is clear and absolute in nature:

10 Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ‘Declaration on Euthanasia’, http://va/ … no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly, nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offence against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity. 10

44 The language is somewhat complex but the key points are given in our previous discussions in this chapter — life is sacred and so euthanasia, whether voluntarily requested or non-voluntarily encouraged for someone else, is morally impermissible. No legislator, guided by moral ideals, can ever morally recommend this type of killing, whether motivated by a mistaken sense of mercy or not.

9. Anti-Euthanasia: Argument Two

45 A related objection to euthanasia, premised on a commitment to Christianity, is the objection from valuable suffering (keep in mind that not all Christians, by any stretch, would defend an objection of this type). Let us return to the 1980 Catholic Declaration of Faith. The document states that:

11 Ibid. According to Christian teaching, however, suffering, especially suffering during the last moments of life, has a special place in God’s saving plan; it is in fact a sharing in Christ’s passion and a union with the redeeming sacrifice which He offered in obedience to the Father’s will . 11

46 Thus, even if someone requests euthanasia in order to avoid pain, that request should not be granted because it deprives a person of an element of God’s plan for them; the experience of suffering at the end of life brings that person closer to sharing in the experience of Christ. This does not mean that Christians oppose palliative care (a type of care that does not attempt to extend life, so much as make an individual as comfortable as possible as they face the end of their life). However, it does explain why a life should be seen through to its natural end and why it might therefore be viewed as morally wrong to shorten it.

10. Anti-Euthanasia: Argument Three

47 The third anti-euthanasia argument to consider can be labelled the slippery slope objection (sometimes called the Wedge argument ). This objection does not require any view regarding the Sanctity of Life or a deontological duty not to kill; indeed, the slippery slope objection is both teleological in nature and does not even require a denial that euthanasia might be desirable in certain instances when viewed in the abstract or in isolation.

48 The slippery slope objection is that if euthanasia were to become legal in some situations, then it would lead to euthanasia becoming legal and acceptable in situations where it is actually morally undesirable. To see the strength of such an objection, consider earlier pro-euthanasia arguments couched in terms of resource allocation and personal autonomy.

49 If euthanasia can be justified on teleological grounds when resources would be better deployed elsewhere, then what is to stop us justifying not merely voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia, but involuntary euthanasia also? If euthanasia is justified on the basis of money and time being better spent on some patients rather than others, then why would permission be required from the patient or the patient’s family?

50 If morality is determined by consequences, and consequences justify euthanasia, then we seem to be slipping down a dangerous slope to euthanising people without their consent. After all, if you are a teleologist (perhaps, an act utilitarian) you have already given up ideas concerning absolute rules against certain actions. It therefore may be objected that either life is sacred, or it is not, and if it is not then we may end up in a situation we find utterly morally indefensible even if we start from apparently moral motivations.

51 In addition, if personal autonomy is respected to the degree that someone can choose when to end their life, then what is to stop a seriously depressed person who is otherwise physically healthy from opting for voluntary euthanasia? Most people might view such enabling of suicide for patients with mental health needs as being very different from euthanasia for PVS patients or the terminally ill, but if personal autonomy justifies euthanasia then how can we justifiably draw a strong enough line so as to allow some people to choose death, but not others? Again, it may be objected that either personal autonomy matters or it does not. If we enable a person to have their life ended, then it is obvious they can never come to a different view on the value of their life at a later stage, as they might have had they still been alive. On this issue, it may be worthwhile revisiting the discussion from Chapter 1 regarding a person’s preferences and whether they are only morally relevant if they stand up to some sort of psychological testing and counselling; the relevant idea is due to Richard Brandt.

52 In addition, opponents of euthanasia often suggest that if one group of people are euthanised, others may begin to feel pressure to take up that same option. If non-voluntary euthanasia is granted, and a legal, moral and cultural line in the sand is thereby crossed, may not elderly patients feel pressured to not be a burden to their families? May not the financially well-off elderly feel pressure to allow their children to inherit any accumulated wealth rather than see that wealth spent on their own care? Granting non-voluntary euthanasia in even a small number of cases may, over time, send us down a slippery slope to the non-morally defensible euthanising of many other types of patients who, as things stand, are quite content to remain alive since they have no reason to consider other options.

53 Of course, an easy response to any slippery slope objection is simply to deny that a change in one fact must lead to a suggested negative change elsewhere. Why think of negative consequences from a change in the law, when these consequences might not happen? Indeed, some slippery slope arguments are logical fallacies if they are premised on the idea that a possible negative outcome must, of necessity, follow from some change in policy. However, we should not “straw-man” the objection in this way (i.e. phrase it in such a weak way that it is easy to argue against). The slippery slope objection suggests that the negative outcomes might be probable, rather than be certain. Thus, a response should deal with the issue of probable negative consequences, rather than cheapening a plausibly reasonable objection through wilful misrepresentation of its structure. Researching the situation in Belgium, where the law regarding euthanasia is perhaps the most liberal in the world, should provide a good grounding to either support or oppose this line of thought, as would considering the application of Rule Utilitarianism. 12

11. Anti-Euthanasia: Argument Four

54 A fourth anti-euthanasia objection is the objection from modern treatment . This objection brings together two distinct, but relevantly similar, lines of thought. Firstly, it might be suggested that to euthanise those who are terminally ill, or those in a PVS, is to kill people earlier than would otherwise happen and thereby to artificially eliminate their chances of living to experience a cure to their condition. At the very least, if not a cure, euthanised people are not around to benefit from any step-forward in treatment that might alleviate their suffering.

55 In addition, given the modern advances in palliative care it might also be argued that end of life care is now so advanced that euthanasia is not necessary in order to avoid suffering and so cannot be justified even on quality of life grounds. It might be thought plausible that a person with a severe and worsening disease who is not euthanised could have their condition and pain carefully managed by skilled healthcare professionals so as to greatly diminish any suffering.

56 In response to these types of objections, Singer grants that were euthanasia legalised then some deaths may occur for people who could have been treated had they been kept alive. However, he urges that:

13 P. Singer, Practical Ethics , p. 197. Against a very small number of unnecessary deaths that might occur if euthanasia is legalised we must place the very large amount of pain and distress that will be suffered if euthanasia is not legalised, by patients who really are terminally ill. 13

57 On balance, Singer suggests, euthanasia would cause more pain to cease than pleasure missed by those who die early. Whether or not palliative care is able to reduce suffering to the extent suggested by the objection is something you may wish to consider and further research, as it would seem to be an empirical claim requiring contemporary evidence to further the discussion.

12. Allowing versus Doing

58 James Rachels (1941–2003) sums up the supposed moral importance of the distinction between allowing and doing in the euthanasia debate:

14 J. Rachels, ‘Active and Passive Euthanasia’, p. 511. The distinction between active and passive euthanasia is thought to be crucial for medical ethics. The idea is that it is permissible, at least in some cases, to withhold treatment and allow a patient to die, but it is never permissible to take any direct action designed to kill the patient. This doctrine seems to be accepted by most doctors. 14

59 Thus, according to Rachels, most doctors at the time of his paper — and not much seems to have changed in the UK context since — would think it permissible to allow a patient to die (passive euthanasia, on our definitions) but think it impermissible to kill a patient even if they request it or if it is deemed to be in their interests (active euthanasia).

60 The plausibility of this distinction is supported by consideration of the Doctrine of Double Effect, as drawn from the normative Natural Law moral theory discussed in Chapter 4. Recall from the chapter on Natural Law ethics that one of the primary precepts for human beings is the preservation of life. No moral prescription, we might think, could speak more strongly and absolutely against euthanasia — especially given the Catholic background of Aquinas’s Natural Law stance and the earlier reference to Catholic views in the context of the Sanctity of Life ethic. A secondary precept, derived from this primary precept, would certainly seem to deny the moral acceptability of artificial shortening of life. However, Natural Law theorists are able to to have a nuanced stance in the euthanasia debate.

61 A Natural Law theorist, via the Doctrine of Double Effect, can describe an action as moral even if it results in an outcome that might not be considered morally permissible in the abstract. If an act is directed by a desire to do moral good, yet has a foreseeable but unintended consequence of a bad effect, then this action may be moral so long as the bad effect was not aimed at, does not outweigh the good effect and is not directly the cause of the bad itself. If this brief comment is unclear, it is critical to look back to the relevant discussion of the Doctrine of Double Effect in the chapter on Natural Law.

62 Now, let us apply this doctrine directly to the context of euthanasia. A doctor may be aware that a patient has not long to live and is suffering immensely. The doctor may prescribe a multitude of painkillers to treat the pain, even though this will have the foreseeable but unintended effect of killing the patient as a result of the side-effects of the drugs. Indeed, a doctor may simply refrain from offering painful treatment methods in order to avoid causing suffering, with the unintended but foreseeable consequence that the patient will die as a result of the non-intervention. These actions are not morally wrong, says the Natural Law theorist, because death is not intended directly but rather the morally good end of pain reduction is intended directly. Thus, the doctor who engages in active euthanasia by provision of a lethal cocktail of drugs in order to artificially kill a patient so that their suffering is reduced is morally wrong (for the good of “suffering reduction” is directly achieved by the bad of killing), while the doctor who withdraws treatment in order to relieve suffering, with the unintended but foreseeable outcome of death, acts morally justly (for the good of “suffering reduction” is achieved by not administering painful treatment, death is just a proportionately acceptable side-effect).

63 Both Rachels and Singer have little time for the distinction between allowing and doing, and the Doctrine of Double Effect, in this debate. Rachels says that:

15 Ibid. . If a doctor lets a patient die, for humane reasons, he is in the same position as if he had given the patient a lethal injection for humane reasons… if the doctor’s decision was the right (to not intervene on the patient’s death) one, the method used is not itself important. 15

16 P. Singer, Practical Ethics , p. 183.

64 Meanwhile, Singer comments that “We cannot avoid responsibility simply by directing our intention to one effect rather than another. If we foresee both effects, we must take responsibility for the foreseen effects of what we do”. 16 Singer gives the example of a business seeking to save money in order to hire more workers. This outcome is good and motivates bosses to act to save money on their recycling bill, with the foreseeable but unintended consequence of polluting a local river. If we would not excuse the company for ignoring a foreseeable consequence, says Singer, then we do not really believe we escape responsibility for allowing death in the euthanasia context.

65 The application of the Doctrine of Double Effect, and Natural Law ethics in general, to the euthanasia debate should be considered carefully and in the light of the earlier chapter outlining the normative theory itself. Despite both Singer’s and Rachel’s attack, Natural Law and the Doctrine of Double Effect retain many proponents. If one views moral outcomes as based on more than consequences alone, then this approach may seem to have more merit than a preference utilitarian like Singer might grant it; this is for you to judge.

SUMMARY Euthanasia is an applied moral topic that has profound implications; successful moral arguments may lead to legislative changes that quite literally shorten or extend lifespans. There are a host of subtleties in the debate to which we can only pay lip-service — such as the acceptability of active euthanasia of depressed patients, the importance of pre-injury requests for treatment or for death; the best way of allocating medical resources; the powers of people over both their bodies and the bodies of incapacitated family members. Further issues are discussed in works such as that by J. David Velleman, and we suggest the references below as a guide to useful and enquiring texts. 17 However, we hope that you now feel confident to explain and evaluate the key arguments both in favour and against the various methods of euthanasia and the various contexts in which those methods may be employed.



KEY TERMINOLOGY Doctrine of double effect Palliative care Persistent Vegetative State Well-being Sanctity of Life Straw-man


‘Belgian Convicted Killer with “Incurable” Psychiatric Condition Granted Right to Die’, the Guardian (16 September 2014), freely available at

Bible , New International Version, freely available at

Chaliha, Jaya, and Le Joly, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Life with Mother Teresa (London: Penguin, 1996).

Glover, Jonathan, Causing Death and Saving Lives (London: Penguin, 1990).

Madison-St. Clair Record , freely available at

Hari, J., ‘Peter Singer: Some People are More Equal than Others’, freely available at

Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ‘Declaration on Euthanasia’, freely available at

Singer, Peter, Practical Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011),

Rachels, James, ‘Active and Passive Euthanasia’, Biomedical Ethics and the Law , 5 (1979): 511–16,

Velleman, J. David, Beyond Price: Essays on Birth and Death (Cambridge, Open Book Publishers, 2015), ; freely available at

1 J. Hari, ‘Peter Singer: Some People are More Equal than Others’,

2 J. Glover, Causing Death and Saving Lives , p. 45.

4 Ibid. , p. 163.

6 P. Singer, Practical Ethics , p. 195.

9 J. Chaliha and E. Le Joly, The Joy in Loving , p. 174.

10 Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ‘Declaration on Euthanasia’, http://va/

12 The following article highlights the use of the law in Belgium: ‘Belgian Convicted Killer with “Incurable” Psychiatric Condition Granted Right to Die’,

13 P. Singer, Practical Ethics , p. 197.

14 J. Rachels, ‘Active and Passive Euthanasia’, p. 511.

17 J. D. Velleman, Beyond Price: Essays on Birth and Death ,

© Open Book Publishers, 2017

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Chapter 7. Euthanasia

For AQA Philosophy and OCR Religious Studies

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A Level Philosophy & Religious Studies

Theories on the value of life

Euthanasia being morally acceptable or not will depend on which view of the value of life is correct and, if relevant to the theory, on the particular type of euthanasia or situation in question.

The Sanctity of life

The conservative, sometimes also called the ‘strong’ sanctity of life view, claims that because God created human life, only God has the right to end it. Humans were created in God’s image, further suggesting that human life is especially valuable.

Both conservative catholics and protestants believe that the strong sanctity of life principle is justified by the Bible. Catholics would also think that Natural Law ethics provides justification for the conservative sanctity of life principle.

The sixth of the ten commandments is “thou shalt not murder”.

“Your body is a temple of the holy spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God. You do not belong to yourself” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

“Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” Genesis 9:6

The weak sanctity of life view. Proponents of the weak sanctity of life principle criticise the strong version by pointing out that although the sanctity of life is found in the Bible, it is only one of many biblical principles and themes. So, although sanctity of life is important in judging the value of life, there are other principles that should also be included, such as Jesus’ emphasis on compassion. The problem with the strong sanctity of life view is that it allows unnecessary suffering and is uncompassionate, seeming to ignore the demands of compassion. In some cases, then, compassion for the quality of life might outweigh the sanctity of life.

However, although the Bible does have the theme of compassion, that doesn’t mean it can be used to overrule the sanctity of life. The Bible clearly is against killing. There is no exception mentioned for the sake of compassion. Although the Bible says to be compassionate, it doesn’t follow that it is Biblical to go against the sanctity of life when it would be compassionate to do so.

Atheistic sociological critique of the sanctity of life view

Sociology would ask what function the sanctity of life view has in a society. Arguably in ancient times when society was more chaotic, strict rules were important both to hold society together and because people were not educated nor civilised enough to be trusted with the freedom to interpret their application. It was important for what little stability ancient society had to promote and cling to an absolutist view that ending life was always wrong.

The strong sanctity of life principle served a useful function in ancient society, then. However, arguably today it is increasingly outdated. Society is more stable, and people are more educated and civilised (self-controlled).

The great strength of religion as a form of social organisation is also its greatest weakness. By telling people that its ethical precepts come from God it creates a strong motivation to follow them. Yet, because those precepts are imagined to come from an eternal being, they become inflexible and painstakingly difficult to progress.

Quality of life

Quality of life refers to how happy or unhappy a life is. Proponents of the quality of life in relation to euthanasia regard it as a valid ethical consideration because they think that life has to be of a certain quality in order for it to count as worth living.

Peter Singer believes the quality of life to be an important factor in euthanasia. He goes as far as recommending non-voluntary euthanasia for babies whose potential quality of life is low, such as due to being born with an incurable condition like spine abifida.

Peter Singer’s criteria for personhood are rationality and self-consciousness. He distinguishes between ‘humans’ (members of our species) and ‘persons’ (rational self-conscious beings). Not all humans are persons. Singer argued that belief in the sanctity of life of members of our species (humans) was based on ‘Christian domination of European thought’, especially belief in an afterlife and that God had ownership of us, his creation. He proposes that since Christian theological tenants are no longer accepted, we should re-evaluate Christian ethical precepts too.

Singer argues that if we think about what we find wrong with killing someone, it is that it deprives them of the life they want to continue live. A consequence is that if euthanasia is voluntarily asked for by a competent adult, then it would not be wrong because they don’t want to continue living their life. In the case of non-voluntary euthanasia for babies or patients in a vegetative state, they have no sense or conception of their life, let alone their life continuing. So, it’s not morally wrong to kill them because it doesn’t deprive them of anything that they are able to have a preference to not be deprived of.

The slippery slope vs quality of life. The slippery slope is an argument which suggests that if we allow something in an extreme case, it won’t be long until we allow it in a less extreme case and so on until it’s allowed in many or all cases.

If we allow euthanasia for the reason of quality of life for terminally ill people then we are committed to the view that euthanasia is about reducing suffering, but then we have no basis for resisting extending this principle to young people with incurable mental or physical illnesses or even babies and small children who have conditions that will cause them suffering. We could even suggest a further case, where adults who are suffering (homeless or depressed people) are killed without their permission to increase the happiness of society. 

Archbishop Anthony Fisher makes the slippery slope argument against euthanasia, arguing that wherever it is legalised, it is extended to more and more people as that is where the logic of autonomy or quality of life arguments lead. E.g. in Holland, euthanasia was legalised for the terminally ill but 10 year later was legalised for babies in cases of severe illness where both parents consented.

Singer responds by pointing out that genetic screening allowing mothers to know if their baby has a condition before its born and aborting it meant the post-birth non-voluntary euthanasia numbers dropped from 15 in 2005 to 2 in 20010.

Singer adds that there is no creep of euthanasia becoming more widespread. He points out how in Oregon only one in three thousand deaths are by euthanasia.

Furthermore, Singer doesn’t only adopt the quality of life principle. He combines it with autonomy. So, euthanasia is justified if it is a rational autonomous choice made by someone due to having a low quality of life. This seems to avoid many of the issues of the slippery slope such as euthanising people without their consent.

Autonomy is the freedom of people to make their own choices. This isn’t directly a view on the value of life, but it is the view that the decision about whether a life is valuable ought morally to be up to the individual whose life it is.

There are two ways of arguing for autonomy: deontological and consequentialist.

The deontological view of autonomy

Autonomy has intrinsic ethical value.

Nozick draws on Kant’s formula of humanity that we should treat all humans never merely as a means but always also an end in themselves. Nozick claims this justifies the libertarian principle of ‘self-ownership’ which holds that people have the right to total freedom from external coercion. That would include freedom from state laws or any individual that attempted to prevent euthanasia from being chosen.

The consequentialist view of autonomy

Autonomy is not justified on the basis of it being a right – consequentialists typically don’t believe in rights. It is justified on the basis of it being enabling of happiness.

J. S. Mill did not comment on euthanasia directly, but his philosophy formed the basis for justifying the autonomy principle which has application to euthanasia. Mill played a vital role in shaping political liberalism which defines all western democracies. Before the enlightenment, religion told people what to think, say and do. Mill, however, thought that society would be happier and make more progress if the underlying ethos of civilisation radically shifted to one based on individuality. Mill thought that society should not try to enforce a certain way of life on its citizens but merely stop people from harming each other. People should be the ultimate sovereign authority over their own life. Mill gave a number of arguments for this, including that individual people are in the best position to judge what is best for them and have the greatest motivation to ensure they live the best lives possible. People have different personalities and temperaments. If left free, people will run experiments in living which will result in a wealth of public knowledge about the better or worse ways to live, which future free people will be able to draw on in their own free choices and experiments, thus progressing the well-being of society at a greater rate than if that autonomy were not granted.

Mill’s arguments suggest that euthanasia should be left to the autonomy of a competent adult.

The slippery slope vs autonomy. The slippery slope is an argument which suggests that if we allow something in an extreme case, it won’t be long until we allow it in a less extreme case and so on until it’s allowed in many or all cases.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher argues that allowing euthanasia for the reason of autonomy is vulnerable to the slippery slope issue. There is no way to reasonable restrict the principle of “freedom to die” to the hard cases. If we grant that people have the autonomous freedom to die, how can we then deny it in all cases where someone wishes to die, no matter how short-sighted their reason?

Peter Singer says he is not an absolutist about autonomy as he doesn’t want to make it easy for people to end their lives when they have a treatable condition or when they might easily recover. Singer gives the example of a young person who is suicidality depressed due to relationship issues as an exception to the autonomy principle as we can ‘safely predict’ that they will come to view their life as worth living again and the value of that ‘overrides’ the temporary violation of their autonomy to deny them euthanasia.

Singer agrees with Mill’s argument that the individual who is in the best position to judge what is best for them and whether the potential value of their future life is of sufficient worth to make continuing to live the best choice for them. The young love-sick person is clearly not making that rational calculation however. An autonomous choice therefore has to be not only sane but also rational.

So, as long as we understand autonomy to be rational autonomy, arguably the slippery slope problem can be avoided.  

The difficulty of determining when an autonomous choice is rational. There will be grey areas and difficult cases where it’s hard to draw the line regarding when an autonomous choice is rational or not. Who gets to determine whether another person’s choice is rational?

Arguably the downsides of trying to draw the line between rational and irrational autonomous choice are much less than those of the sanctity of life which simply prevents any autonomous wish to die at all, leading so much unnecessary suffering.

Situation ethics on Euthansia

Fletcher’s liberal view of the Bible. Fletcher argued that the Bible is not a legalistic ‘rules book’ but an ‘editorial collection of scattered sayings’ which at most offers us ‘some paradigms or suggestions’. We can’t take the Bible literally, nor can we figure out which interpretation is correct. Fletcher’s liberal approach to the Bible allows him to reject the sanctity of life and claim that the central paradigm/theme of the Bible is the promotion of agape, which he basis his situation ethics on.

Situation ethics would judge that euthanasia can be morally good, in situation where it maximises agape. In situations where it would maximise agape to avoid euthanasia, it would be wrong, however.

If someone has a very low quality of life and an autonomous wish to die, it seems that Fletcher would accept euthanasia.

However if someone is pressured into euthanasia by their family who are greedy for inheritance or by society making them feel like a failure or a burden, or if they have a short-term issue like Singer’s example of a lovesick teenager, Fletcher would think it wrong to allow euthanasia in such cases.

Fletcher argued that the ‘indicators of humanhood’ are self-awareness, self-control, a sense of the future and past, the capacity to relate to others, have concern for others, communication and curiosity.

Fletcher vs the slippery slope. Arguably Fletcher’s situation ethics gets around the issue of the slippery slope. Fletcher’s guiding principle is not quality or life, nor autonomy – but agape. It’s hard to see how there could be a slippery slope for agape in the same way as those other principles.

Standard criticisms of situation ethics apply, including:

Love is subjective. Situation ethics claims that love is the basis for ethical judgement. However, it is subjective, meaning a matter of opinion. Someone might find it loving to end their life because they feel like a burden. Someone might find it loving to manipulate/pressure someone into or out of euthanasia, perhaps if they will get inheritance to pay for their children’s food or something.

Barclay: situation ethics grants people a dangerous amount of freedom. People are not perfectly loving so if given the power to judge what is good or bad, people will do selfish or even cruel things. People’s loving nature can be corrupted by power. Someone might find it loving to manipulate/pressure someone into or out of euthanasia, perhaps if they will get inheritance to pay for their children’s food or something.

Fletcher and Robinson argue (influenced by Bonhoeffer) that humanity has ‘come of age’, however. This means that humanity has become more mature. In medieval and ancient time, when humanity had not come of age, people in general were less educated and less self-controlling. This meant that they needed fixed ridged clear rules to follow, because they could not be trusted to understand and act on the nuances and complexities in how a rule could justifiably be bent or broken if the situation called for it. However, now people are more civilised, to the point that granting them more autonomy will increase love without risking the stability of society.

Barclay disagrees however, and thinks that although people might appear improved, if granted the freedom (and thus power) to do what they want, they won’t choose the loving thing they will choose the selfish or even the cruel thing. This is essentially the classic argument that power corrupts. It also echoes the debate about the extent to which human nature is corrupt, such as by original sin. Also relevant is psychology like the Stanford prison experiment and literature like lord of the flies. It is a well-known feature of human psychology that power is corrupting. The freedom to decide what is good or bad without external supervision of legalistic laws grants humans more power and thereby corrupts them.

Situation ethics ignores most of the commands in the Bible. The Bible is clearly against Euthanasia, so Fletcher’s theory is not being true to Christian ethics.

Natural law and the Catholic church on Euthanasia

Euthanasia violates the primary precept to protect and preserve human life. 

However, the Catholic Church uses the double effect to suggest that sometimes doctors can stop or withdraw treatment or even administer pain medication which could speed up death. So long as the intention is not to kill, the double effect would suggest such actions can be morally acceptable.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on euthanasia:

“Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.

Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate … Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged. “

Peter Singer criticises the way that the sanctity of life principle is applied by the Catholic Church – claiming that “they do not really act as if they believe it”. He points out that the Catholic Church allows for passive euthanasia – the withdrawal of life support machines from patients who are in a coma or vegetative state. The Church claim that this is because they have no obligation to provide “burdsonsome or disproportionate treatment”. However, there are cases of patients in comas who the Church have allowed passive euthanasia for (e.g. Karen Ann Quinlan). Singer points out that since such patients are in a coma, it’s impossible to see how keeping them alive on life-support machines could have imposed a ‘burden’, since unconscious people cannot experience burden. Singer concludes that the only logical way to think it good to remove treatment is if you believe that life must have some “positive quality” in order to be valuable, i.e. the quality of life view.

The Natural law social order argument for sanctity of life. This Catholic argument is based on Aquinas’ natural law, which is the idea that God designed all things, including humans, to have the potential to act in harmony if they follow God’s natural laws, which involves preserving human life. If we go against that natural harmony then then our society will break down because living contrary to God’s design is unnatural and leads to immorality and social disorder. It is dangerous for human beings to give themselves the right to decide who gets to live and who doesn’t because we are unworthy of that power and would be corrupted by it. We need to believe that life is sacred otherwise we will treat it as less valuable. Mother Theresa summed up this kind of argument well during her speech upon receiving the noble peace prize. She claimed “the greatest threat to world peace is abortion. If a mother can kill her own child in her own womb, what is left to stop us from killing one another?” The idea is, if we stop treating life as sacred and having intrinsic value, that will reduce the value we place on life and be dangerous for the order of society.

Another way to put this argument is: are humans really worthy of the power to decide who it’s ok to kill? Isn’t it arrogant and dangerous to imagine we are good enough to wield that power responsibly?

Mother Theresa’s argument doesn’t seem to be true. Northern Europe has the most atheistic countries where quality of life is acted on instead of sanctity of life, but those countries are nonetheless some of the most stable and happy in the world. So, it just doesn’t look like it’s true that sanctity of life is a requirement for social order.

The negative effect on the vulnerable of allowing euthanasia

If Euthanasia is allowed, then some elderly or otherwise vulnerable people might be tempted to die because they feel like a burden. Some might even be pressured or manipulated into it by their family who want their inheritance, or simply to be rid of them.

This pressure is not limited to interpersonal relationships, but could occur at the societal level too. Our culture values success, self-sufficiency, productivity and beauty. Those who are unable to attain any of these markers of social status can feel miserable as a result. If we allow euthanasia, such people might feel encouraged to die because they feel like failures.

In 2022 in Canada there was a controversy over two high profile cases of people with medical conditions for which they received insufficient financial support applying for euthanasia. One called Denise saying they have applied for euthanasia “because of abject poverty”.

The idea that helping marginalised vulnerable people to die as a ‘solution’ is horrific. The obviously ethical solution is changing the goal of culture away from success and towards more fulfilling things like love. Those who believe in euthanasia think they are doing so out of love and kindness, not realising they are acting as the executioners for our merciless success-driven society.

Singer responds that people who receive euthanasia in Oregon are disproportionately white, educated and not particularly elderly, so euthanasia does not especially target vulnerable people.

Furthermore, these criticisms are arguably not criticisms of euthanasia per se . They highlight the problem with allowing euthanasia in a society which lacks proper support for those who need it.

Types of euthanasia which the theories on the valid of life will have judgements on:

Terminal illness.

Terminal illness is the most common reason for euthanasia as the person is going to die anyway often after a period of suffering.

Incurable physical illness

incurable physical illness such as cluster headaches are simply extremely painful and have no cure, reducing quality of life. Other incurable physical illness such as locked in syndrome almost completely paralyse a person which make them incapable of committing suicide even if they wanted to.

Incurable mental illness

incurable mental illness raises the issue of whether there is a kind and degree of mental illness which sufficiently impinges on the mind such that a rational choice to die cannot be made. Someone might be suffering considerable from an incurable mental illness, but if their ability to make informed rational choices is undermined by their illness, pro-autonomists would argue they shouldn’t be given euthanasia, while quality of life advocates might decide they should be.

In Belgium euthanasia is legal for people who don’t have a terminal illness but have an incurable and severe mental illness. Even young people in their 20s have been euthanized for this reason. If they have tried everything including every medication available, euthanasia is seen as a last resort.

Active & passive

Active euthanasia is when the person is killed by some positive action such as lethal injection, usually by a Doctor. Passive euthanasia is when no one performs an action which results in the death of the person but they are left to die by natural means, either by the result of their illness if they have one or simply by removing life-support machine equipment or even stopping giving them food. The death takes longer and unless they are unconscious in a coma or braindead, is more painful. However, the moral difference is that no one performed an action of killing them.

Situation ethics would likely regard active euthanasia as morally better than passive euthanasia, since it is quicker which can mean less suffering, which seems the more loving option.

The sanctity of life view would regard active and passive euthanasia as equally wrong since all life is sacred and must therefore be preserved.

The Catholic Church’s use of Natural law regards passive euthanasia as being potentially justifiable in certain circumstances under the double effect, so long as the intention is to accept ‘one’s inability to impede’ death.

Voluntary & non-voluntary

Voluntary euthanasia is when a person has the mental capacity to choose euthanasia.

Non-voluntary euthanasia is when someone does not have the mental capacity to choose euthanasia. If they are in a coma for example, or a persistant vegitative state,

This also applies to the euthanasia of babies. When a baby is born with a terrible terminal condition that will cause them significant pain before killing them in a few months anyway, many argue that non-voluntary euthanasia would be justified.

Case study: Alfie Evans. A particularly difficult case because the (apparently religious) parents wanted medical treatment to continue but the High Court of the UK ruled that the decision should be taken away from them as continued treatment of Alfie would be unkind and inhumane, due to it pointlessly delaying inevitable death and causing pain to Alfie in the process. It’s tempting to think that the parents should have the right to decide in cases like this, but what about the rights of the child not to suffer unnecessarily?

Possible exam questions for Euthanasia

Easy Assess whether natural law is helpful for dealing with the issue of euthanasia Assess whether situation ethics is helpful for dealing with the issue of euthanasia ‘euthanasia can be the loving choice in some situations’ – Discuss. ‘euthanasia goes against God’ – How far do you agree? Can euthanasia ever be justified? To what extent is euthanasia morally good?

Medium Should a person have complete autonomy to choose euthanasia? Is quality of life a basis on which euthanasia might be justified? ‘Life should never be ended because it is sacred’ – Discuss.

Hard ‘The religious concept of sanctity of life has no meaning in twenty-first century medical ethics’ – How far do you agree? Critically compare sanctity of life with autonomy as principles for judging the issue of euthanasia Is there a moral difference between active and passive euthanasia? Critically compare the morality of voluntary with non-voluntary euthanasia

Quick links

Year 12 ethics topics: Natural Law. Situation ethics. Kantian ethics. Utilitarianism. Euthanasia. Business ethics. 

Year 13 ethics topics: Meta-ethics. Conscience. Sexual ethics. 

OCR Philosophy OCR Christianity OCR essay structure OCR list of possible exam questions

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Euthanasia On A Personal Level

The controversial issue of euthanasia.

Today I am here to talk about the controversial issue of euthanasia. This year, the Greens party has planned to introduce a ‘Rights of the Terminally Ill’ bill into state parliament. This has raised the issue of whether or not euthanasia should be legalised in Australia. Euthanasia is the practice of ending a person’s life in order to release them from an incurable disease or intolerable suffering. There are two types of euthanasia: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia occurs upon request and involuntary euthanasia refers to ending the life of a person who is not mentally competent, such as a comatose patient, or hastening the death of someone who

A Modest Proposal for Euthanasia Essay

Euthanasia is a controversy that cannot be resolved from a single court ruling or a single person’s opinion. Many proposals have been suggested based on various studies and surveys. In “You Say Murder, I Say Euthanasia,” Clair Rayner describes a notable proposal regarding extreme euthanasia cases. The proposal, which has been put into the Science of Museum forum, recommends complex cases to be considered individually. In “Assisted Suicide Largely Shunned,” the anonymous author offers statistics that oppose the ethics of euthanasia.

Argumentative Arguments Against Euthanasia

Euthanasia and assisted dying are one of the controversial topics that are highly argumentative for its legalization in many countries. Through it is legal in some countries of Europe, few states in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia is one of the countries that still against legalizing Euthanasia or assisted Dying.Though once this option was legal in NT, reformation of law has caused it to be illegal again.Discussion of this topic is prevalent in media which often fueled by the nonfrequent prosecution of individual who becomes involved in the death of patients wanting death by lethal drugs causing death(QUT,2017).Arguments against legalizing euthanasia in Australia has been discussed in this essay.

Ethical Issues Surrounding Euthanasia

Euthanasia should be considered in all aspects of the medical field because people need to be in charge of their lives, statements from critics, and the serious evaluation process when chosen. Euthanasia can reserve all rights towards an individual’s choice towards death or not, because it is the person who has to endure and agonize through the incurable illness. An individual’s perspective on a situation is through their eyes and no one else, that is why euthanasia produces the choice of being alive or

Active Euthanasia In Australia

Euthanasia is one of the greatest bio-ethical issues of contemporary times. In recent years the relevance of the issue of euthanasia has increased within Australia, however euthanasia has always been a controversial issue. Through history specific culture believed in the importance of dying with dignity. However as time has progressed more western cultures have moved away from this ideology, with many opposiong the active or passive ending of someones life due to religious or societal beliefs.

Argument for Euthanasia: Personal Narrative

More than 5 years ago, I found myself in the exact same position that Susan Wolf had found herself in with her father. In my case, it was the end of life care for an elderly aunt who had no other family and as such, became a part of mine. She was my ward in a way, fully reliant and dependent on me in so many ways due to her advanced age. I thought that she was a very healthy person and could possibly go on living forever since she was under constant medical care. But all the medical care that the doctors could provide for her could not remove the nagging pains that seemed to be ravaging her fast aging body.

Pros And Cons Of Voluntary Pro Euthanasia

Euthanasia, or voluntary assisted suicide, has been the subject of much moral, legal and human rights debate in Australia. Broadly speaking, this term is used to describe the termination of a person’s life to end their suffering, usually through the administration of drugs. The core of this debate is centred on how to mitigate and pacify competing values; an individual's desire to self autonomy and freedom and choice to die with dignity when suffering, alongside with the devaluation of human life as a consequence that is formed through the legalisation of euthanasia. Due to the nature of the topic of euthanasia that is shrouded with ethical controversy and ambiguity, there is difficulty in legal justification and establishment of voluntary

The Right to Assisted Suicide Essay

According to Simon Jenkins, a writer for the British newspaper The Guardian, states that “there cannot be a human freedom so personal as ordering the circumstances of one's own death...[yet]... the near universal desire ‘to be allowed to die in my own home’ is willfully disregarded” (Jenkins 1). By allowing yourself to have life, one would assume that this gives you freedom over other aspects of your existence, including when it should end. By denying the rights to achieve liberty, achieve happiness, and define our lives, are we not denying the rights governments around the world were founded on? It is the denial of these rights that allows the mental stress felt by patients to turn into physical pain.

Legalizing Euthanasia In Australia

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Euthanasia In Australia

A study undertaken shows a majority of Australians support making voluntary euthanasia legal. An online survey was conducted with more than 1,400 people data revealed more than 70% believe Euthanasia should be allowed. 17% said “they didn’t know”, whilst 12% were opposed to the

Annotated Bibliography On Euthanasia

Hutchinson proposed that voluntary ¬euthanasia could grow to the deaths of more than 1000 terminally ill patients a year before 2030. The Andrews government had the country's first assisted death in September 2017. The self-¬administered death is open to terminally ill patients aged over 18. The suffering must be with an ¬incurable disease with a life ¬expectancy of less than 12 months. I will use this to demonstrate the growing number of physician assisted suicides.

Euthanasia and Self Determination

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Essay on Euthanasia: Not Just for the Terminally Ill

   Euthanasia or assisted suicide would not only be available to people who are terminally ill. This popular misconception is what this essay seeks to correct. There is considerable confusion on this point, perhaps further complicated by statements in the media.

Euthanasia Essay : Euthanasia And Euthanasia

This is why Euthanasia is important and summarizing the research that I found on Euthanasia. Euthanasia is important because there is a lot of arguments about Euthanasia. Some people support it and some people do not support Euthanasia (Euthanasia and assisted suicide- Arguments). Euthanasia allows people to be free from physical pain. It is the hastening of death of a patient to prevent further sufferings (Euthanasia Revisited). The religious argument states God chooses when human life ends. Euthanasia also causes mental suffering because they are in physical pain or they are experiencing with terminal illness. It is a debatable issue. There are many different opinions on Euthanasia.

Euthanasia And Healthcare : Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the practice of ending the life of an individual for the purposes of relieving pain and suffering. Over the years, there has been a big debate about its merits and demerits, and the debate is not about to end anytime soon. However, no matter what side of the debate one supports, it is important to consider a few facts. One, the prolonged stay in hospital is bound to raise medical costs. Two, some medical complications bring suffering and pain to the patient without any possibility of getting back to one 's normal activities of daily living. However, ending the life of a person intentionally may be treated as a serious crime in some jurisdictions. Given these facts, it is evident that making a decision about euthanasia is bound to be a challenging task. Although not everyone might agree, euthanasia is a necessary procedure that relieves the pain and suffering of the patient and rids the family and the government of expensive medical costs that would not necessary improve the life of the patient.

Related Topics /applied ethics

Euthanasia resources, find out more, test yourself.

There are some sample exam questions - it is always better to try answering the question first then you can compare your answer with the samples given. The euthanasia chart was used when applying Kant to specific cases of euthanasia to try to determine what a universal maxim might consist of.

The following are tables with aspects of each ethical theory followed by a blank square which students should fill in themselves. At first, students should merely write in how each aspect of the theory applies to abortion (using examples if possible). An example of a filled-in table is Kant and the right to a child . As they become more confident, students can include an evaluation of each theory's responses.

euthanasia essay a level

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The word ‘euthanasia ’ literally means ‘dying well’.

Non- religious arguments in favour

Non- religious arguments against

Christian teachings

Wrong but do not want people to suffer.

On the other hand some Christians might say that voluntary euthanasia should be legalised because:

Evangelical Protestants believe it is wrong in every circumstance

Liberal Protestants allow limited use of euthanasia

Muslim Teachings

All are against euthanasia but 2 attitudes exist.

Switching off a life support machine is NOT euthanasia.

Others see turning the life support machine off as BEING euthanasia. Against it because…

Hindu teachings to Euthanasia

Hindus who oppose euthanasia use the principle of Ahimsa to argue that it wrong to harm or kill another human being.

They use the same principle to argue against suicide.

Hindus who support euthanasia use the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita to argue that as the soul cannot be harmed, euthanasia simply releases it so it can move on to it’s next life.

euthanasia essay a level

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Catholic World Report

Citizens’ convention endorses legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in France

Solène Tadié

February 27, 2023 Catholic News Agency News Briefs 0 Print

euthanasia essay a level

CNA Newsroom, Feb 27, 2023 / 10:56 am (CNA).

A citizens’ convention made up of randomly selected members of the French public voted Feb. 19 in favor of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, including for minors, preparing the way for the drafting of new “end of life” legislation.

The 184-member council was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron to debate “end of life” issues after the government’s National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) issued an opinion Sept. 13, 2022, favorable to legalizing assisted suicide.

For three months the convention debated the question, “Is the framework for end-of-life support adapted to the different situations encountered or should changes be introduced?” At the end of debate, 84% of the members of the citizens’ council  agreed  that the current legal framework does not respond to the “different situations encountered.” A full 66% of them felt that active assistance in dying in the form of euthanasia should be accessible, and 72% approved of assisted suicide.

In France, euthanasia refers to the administration of a lethal agent by medical personnel, while assisted suicide is the self-administration of a lethal substance with the prior consent of a physician.

For opponents of changes to the current end-of-life law, the most worrying aspect of these discussions is the very high percentage of citizens in favor of active assistance in dying for minors. Indeed, 56% of them voted in favor of extending assisted suicide to minors under the age of 18, and 67% approve of euthanasia for minors.

The outcome of the consultation was judged “appalling” by the pro-life association Alliance Vita. In a Feb. 20  press release , the organization said that “despite the opposition of strong minorities, these votes show to what extent any legislative shift towards the so-called ‘active assistance in dying’ would involve assisted suicide and euthanasia, even for people unable to ask for it in conscience … starting with children!”

A clear majority of the council of citizens, however, considered that access to active assistance in dying should in all cases be subject to conditions, although the report did not provide more details about such conditions.

Calling it a “turning point” in this particularly sensitive societal debate, Claire Thoury, president of the Citizens’ Convention Governance Committee, said in the introduction to the report that this first phase of deliberation was only intended to outline the broad directions of the consultation.

She said that the group would reconvene in March for a “harmonization phase,” during which more detailed proposals will be formulated and included in the final document to be submitted to the government March 19. This document should serve as the basis for the development of a new end-of-life bill.

In January 2021, a bill sponsored by the Socialist Party to expand access to euthanasia failed to pass the French Parliament due to the number of amendments from the legislation’s opposition. This citizen consultation was seen as a way to legitimize the introduction of a new bill, this time by the party of the majority presidential party, known as Renaissance or RE.

The positions adopted by the citizens’ convention confirmed the fears of those who, following the first opinion of the CCNE, feared that France would follow in the footsteps of its Belgian neighbor, whose permissive approach to end-of-life has already given rise to  numerous   cases of abuse . In recent years, Belgium has also approved euthanasia for several minors, the youngest of whom was 9 years old.

Macron, who made changing the end-of-life framework one of his campaign promises,  declared  his “penchant” for the Belgian model in April of last year.

But voices have already begun to be raised in the French political world following the publication of the conclusions of the citizens’ convention. This is the case of MEP François-Xavier Bellamy, a leading member of the center-right party Les Républicains and a self-declared Catholic, who said that this convention “represented only itself” and was not democratic.

For her part, the philosopher Chantal Delsol considered — in an opinion column published on Le Figaro — that this societal change observed in France and among its European neighbors is a symptom of a deeper cultural mutation in the West, dating back to the last half-century, and which she attributes to the erasure of the Judeo-Christian culture, to the benefit of a return to the pagan ideal.

“The ancient Greeks and Romans justified and even glorified personal or accompanied suicide,” she wrote.

Recalling that it was Judaism and then Christianity that affected a radical change in the conception of the dignity of every human life, she claimed that “the demand for active euthanasia represents a return to the situation of our distant ancestors: It is justified by the fact that our contemporaries no longer believe in substantial dignity, which used to respond to a transcendence.”

“This is a profound rupture in our cultural anthropology, which is reflected and declined in all areas of life, of which assisted suicide is one aspect,” she wrote.

The gradual cultural shift that is now affecting France is also raising concerns in the Vatican. During an audience with a group of French elected officials on the eve of the start of the national debate last October, Pope Francis  urged  them to oppose euthanasia and its main corollary, the “throwaway culture.”

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euthanasia essay a level

CNA Staff, Oct 30, 2020 / 03:01 pm ( CNA ).- An unnamed French official told the New York Times on Friday that police have arrested a 47-year-old man in connection with a deadly terrorist attack inside Notre-Dame de Nice.

The attacker on Oct. 29 killed three people in the church, including a 44-year-old mother of three; a 60 year old woman who had come to the church to pray; and the church’s 55 year old sacristan.

The attacker used a knife to carry out the killings and reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he did so.

French police shot and arrested the perpetrator, who has been identified as Brahim Aouissaoui, 21. Aouissaoui reportedly arrived in Europe in late September, first at the Italian island Lampedusa before traveling to France.

The second man arrested is reportedly suspected of being in contact with the assailant, the New York Times reported Oct. 30 .

The French bishops asked churches across the country to toll their bells Thursday in memory the three people killed.

The attack in Nice follows the beheading of Samuel Paty, a Paris school teacher, in an Islamist terror attack earlier this month. The attacker in that incident reportedly was angered that Paty had shown cartoons of Muhammad during his classes.

Other attacks took place in France Oct. 29. In Montfavet, near Avignon, a man waving a handgun made threats and was killed by the police two hours after the Nice attack. Radio station Europe 1 said the man was also shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

Reuters also reported a knife attack on a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed Moussaoui, president of French Council of Muslim Faith, condemned the terrorist attack and asked French Muslims to cancel their festivities for Mawlid, the Oct. 29 celebration of Muhammad’s birthday, “as a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, responded to the news of the attack on the basilica, writing on Twitter: “Islamism is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination … Unfortunately, we Africans know this too well. The barbarians are always the enemies of peace. The West, today France, must understand this.”

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