Section: Philosophy 1318
Article: “Active and Passive Euthanasia” by James Rachels
Author’s Thesis: There is no principal difference between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia.
Argument for Rachel’s Thesis: Active euthanasia is in many cases more humane than passive euthanasia. Intentions and actions are two separate ideas which cannot be compared. He also explains how inaction is still an action because there is a consequence. When performing euthanasia, no matter the intentions, someone still dies. There is no moral distinction between letting die and killing someone because the action’s result is the same. If letting a person die is morally permissible then killing someone is also, and vice versa.
My Thesis: James
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Taking all of this into consideration, the patient asks the doctor to “pull the plug”, which his family also agrees to. If the doctor were to agree to the patient’s request, he would be abiding by the conventional doctrine, since there is no need to prolong his suffering needlessly. However, if treatment is simply withheld, it is possible for the patient to take longer to die, consequently living with more pain than if no “direct action were taken and a lethal injection given.” It is this thought that gives substantiality to the fact that once the decision to end pain and suffering has been made active, “euthanasia is actually preferable to passive euthanasia, rather than the reverse. To say otherwise is to endorse the option that leads to more suffering rather than less, and is contrary ti the humanitarian impulse that prompts the decision not to prolong his life in the first place.” Part of Rachels’ point is that it is normal for the process of being “allowed to die” to be slow and painful, opposed to the option of a lethal injection, which is relatively quick and painless. Rachels’ argues that the common perception of passive and active euthanasia is misconstrued due to the thought that morally, killing someone is worse than letting someone die.
To investigate this issue, Rachels makes use of two cases that are exactly alike, except for one involves killing whereas the other involves letting someone die. In the first case, a man by the name of Smith is