Active and Passive Euthanasia Essay

704 Words 3 Pages
In 1973 the American Medical Association adopted a statement forbidding ‘mercy killing’ but allowing the cessation of treatment when requested by an incurable patient. In his essay “Active and Passive Euthanasia” James Rachels argues that active euthanasia should be avoided only to satisfy the law, not because of any perceived moral difference between active and passive. Rachels’ essay gives a convincing, logical argument to allow active euthanasia in certain cases. Rachels questions the doctrine that the AMA sets forth regarding intentional termination versus not using extraordinary means. He points out that in some cases withholding treatment can cause more pain and longer suffering. His argument may be questionable because he …show more content…
This argument makes sense because, as Rachels points out, it is the Downs syndrome, not the intestinal blockage, that is the reason for allowing the infant to die. Using the active versus passive euthanasia guidelines that the AMA puts forth makes for a false sense of morality. Is killing someone morally worse than letting someone die? By giving the reader similar examples to compare, Rachels points out that it is motive, not means, that makes the moral difference. In an example of two men who profit from the death of a younger cousin, Rachels describes one man holding the child’s head under water while the other merely watches the child drown in the bath and does nothing to help. In a courtroom the defense that he just “didn’t do anything except stand there and watch” (Rachels 532) would be no defense at all. This also makes sense because it was the actions of both men that caused the boys death. Doing nothing is still an action. Rachels says that if “a doctor lets a patient die for humane reasons he is in the same moral position as if he had given the patient a lethal injection for humane reasons.” (Rachels 533) The AMA policy of being against “the intentional termination of the life of one human being by another” (Rachels 533) is the crucial issue. Rachels believes that mercy killing and allowing one to die are both “intentional termination of life.” (533) Rachels

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