Compare And Contrast Euthanasia And Utilitarianism

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Abortion and euthanasia are two of the most controversial moral dilemmas in modern philosophy. Abortion, the act of intentional killing of a fetus during pregnancy, is condemned in almost all cases by natural law standards. Euthanasia, the act of intentional killing with the intention of relieving a person from great suffering, would also be deemed immoral and irrational by a natural lawyer. Professor Gómez-Lobo defends these natural law teachings in his book, Morality and the Human Goods. However, a utilitarian would have very different stances on abortion and euthanasia compared to a natural lawyer. Whereas a natural lawyer would almost always condemn abortion and euthanasia, utilitarian philosophy has no reservations for supporting abortion …show more content…
Utilitarianism is a subset of consequentialism, the belief that the rightness or wrongness of an action is solely determined by its consequences. The utilitarian philosophy applies a single principle to determine what is the morally correct course of action: the principle of utility. This principle says that all actions and rules must strive to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Different schools of thought consider pleasure, happiness, and choice to be definitions of “good”. In addition, there are multiple schools of utilitarianism that could possibly have slightly different stances on abortion and euthanasia. Act utilitarianism applies the principle of utility to a specific action, whereas rule utilitarianism applies this principle to a generalized rule or law that may affect a large group of …show more content…
James Rachels writes that in the case of extreme suffering, “No human being with a spark of pity could let a living thing suffer so, to no good end” (102). The general utilitarian viewpoint on euthanasia would logically be that mercy killing a patient at his/her request would decrease the amount of misery in the world, and therefore can be justified. Rachels expands upon this viewpoint, claiming that in some cases euthanasia promotes the best interests of everyone concerned, and is therefore sometimes morally acceptable. Gómez-Lobo criticizes the vagueness of the term “best interests” and responds that a situation in which everybody involved benefits from the euthanasia of a patient is unlikely. He also argues that “the utilitarian argument has to assume that mercy killing is the only alternative to acute pain,” (105) which is not true in a normal hospital setting with access to palliative care. However, a utilitarian such as Rachels may respond that palliative care can only provide relief from physical pain, but not the mental or emotional suffering that the patient and his family would experience with the unwanted prolonging of his/her

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