Euthanasia utilitarianism essay

However, there are severe problems for the Utilitarian approach to the defence of voluntary euthanasia. The first is that it seems to justify too much: might it not sometimes justify involuntary euthanasia? If sufficient numbers of people would gain in happiness and quality of life from the death of one person, the Utilitarian has to agree that such an action would be justified, provided it could be carried out without causing a general panic which would outweigh the hoped-for gain in happiness.

This problem is one example of a general difficulty with Utilitarianism of any kind.


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If the rightness of an action is to be measured in overall consequences, there is no protection for the individual against the majority: they may do whatever they like to him, provided there is sufficient gain to outweigh his loss. We might put this point by saying that Utilitarianism does not safeguard the individual's rights. And it is just this inability to safeguard individuals' rights that leads many to reject the Utilitarian approach, as yielding results which are too much at variance with our moral intuitions.

A second problem is the line that the Utilitarian has to take on changing the law. We are apt to assume that the law should reflect private morality: if an action is right, then the law should permit it. But for the Utilitarian a law is right if it is useful: that is, if having such a law would maximise the good results in which he believes. Some Utilitarians say that a change in the law, to permit voluntary euthanasia with due safeguards, would indeed do this.

But a more cautious Utilitarian might believe that the existence of such a law would not have the best possible consequences overall: for example, he might think that it would increase distress because ill people would come to feel that they had to ask for euthanasia although they did not want it. On the Utilitarian view a law which does not have the best consequences is not the right law; so the cautious Utilitarian would have to advocate in public that the law should continue to forbid euthanasia, but in private that people should frequently break it.

This possibility of incoherence between what is publicly supported and what is privately enjoined is an example of another general difficulty with the Utilitarian approach: it often means preaching one thing and hoping that people sometimes do another. This kind of dishonesty is another respect in which Utilitarianism goes against many of our moral intuitions.

Modern Utilitarians have sophisticated replies to the difficulties which I have raised. But I shall unfairly assume that in the end they cannot be solved, and turn to another approach altogether. The Deontologist maintains that some or all actions are right or wrong in themselves, because of the type of action they are, whether or not they produce the best consequences.

This type of view is less easy to systematise than the Consequentialist view.


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But for present purposes Deontologists can be divided into those who start from lists of separate duties or rights, and those who start from one general formula from which more particular duties may all be derived. The source of the list or the formula is typically said to be reason or rational intuition.


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But a religious philosopher might ground them in God's commandments, even if he thought, as many did, that we can be aware of such commandments by the light of reason without the need of religious revelation. I shall begin with the list-makers. Prichard in the twentieth. Some Deontological philosophers speak in terms of duties, others of rights, but for our purposes they may be grouped together. However, we need to distinguish between two kinds of rights. Some rights, commonly called negative rights, are rights not to be treated in certain ways, and there are corresponding duties not to treat the owners of these rights in these ways.

Other rights are positive rights to receive goods or services. Other people may have a duty to provide these, though it tends to be difficult to decide exactly who, as with such rights as the right to work. The patient transferred to a palliative care service with no sign of suicide attempt and other self-harm behaviors and passed away peacefully 76 days after discharged with his relatives and pastors accompany.

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Under a Creative Commons license. Abstract Case description Nurses face more and more ethical dilemmas during their practice nowadays, especially when they are taking care of the patient at end of life stage. Kuhse points out that in the early Greek and Roman traditions, euthanasia was an accepted practice. Kuhse further asserts that the change in the acceptance of euthanasia came about through religion, more specifically Judaism and Christianity. For both Judaism and Christianity, human life is regarded as sanctified, and as such, life should not be destroyed or taken deliberately.

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For these and other religious traditions, only God has the right to end life. This is the argument advanced by most religious persons following God's command as prescribed in the Ten Commandments, namely: 'Thou shall not kill'. While most religious people depend on the Divine Command for answers regarding life, philosophers would depend on human reason for the same answers.

Philosophy Project: Utilitarian Perspective on Voluntary Euthanasia

He argues that discontinuing interventions such as these stands in opposition to the Christian understanding of care; thus, it readily translates to refusing to assist a person to live although suffering in dignity. In other words, for the Church, suffering from an incurable illness does not necessarily compromise a patient's human dignity: dignity can and should be enhanced by all means necessary. Euthanasia, according to the teaching of the Church, is a violation of the Divine law and an offence against human 'dignity' which proponents of the principle claim to defend. The opening chapter Chapter One of Gaudium et Spes deals with the subtitle 'the dignity of the human person', which emphasises that 'man sic was created in the image of God'.

But the document does not stop there. It continues to proclaim as infamies all those actions that violate human dignity in any way. Gaudium et Spes No. The social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of human persons if the disposition of affairs is to be subordinate to the personal realm and not counter wise [ … ].

This social order requires constant improvement. Gaudium et Spes , in Flannery No. The above statement is later on supported in the same document where it proclaims:.

Voluntary Euthanasia: A Utilitarian Perspective

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, [ … ] are infamies [ … ]. Flannery No. The cited parts of Gaudium et Spes No. In simple terms, euthanasia is condemned and thus regarded as one of the acts which violate the dignity of a human being, and consequently the Church advocates against mercy killing.

In this document Gaudium et Spes , euthanasia is listed among other kinds of murder. Taking the Catholic Church's doctrine in both the cited texts, it promotes the principle of caring for people in need of such caring and exhorts individuals to promote personal health. The encyclical letter was addressed to bishops, priests, deacons, religious men and religious women, as well as the laity.

In other words, it was binding to all Catholics.

A utilitarian argument against euthanasia | The BMJ

In this encyclical, Pope John Paul II defines euthanasia as follows: 'Euthanasia is an act or omission which of itself or by intention causes death, with the purpose of eliminating suffering' John Paul II No. This position raises moral dilemmas for Catholics including patients afflicted with pain and suffering from an incurable illness, patients whose death is imminent, family members who consider euthanasia active or passive as an option as well as health workers and medical professionals who are experts in inducing painless death.

The Pope's declaration prohibits both active and passive euthanasia. Consequently, an action can be either a completed action which is also referred to as an act of commission or an incomplete act of omission. An act can also refer to what one, through moral obligation, ought to do but intentionally fails to do.

In this case John Paul II , the prohibition of the principle effectively cancels the autonomy of the patient to request euthanasia, contradicting Plato's position. These contradictory positions do not make the situation any easier for Catholic health care workers as well as for medical professionals, particularly if they are employed by the State, which has legalised euthanasia.

In this encyclical, Pope John Paul II clearly indicates that euthanasia is regarded as interfering with God's plan in the suffering person; further suffering is regarded as part of Christian life in this world. One can strictly interpret the Pope's encyclical as seeing euthanasia as unchristian and as an easy way out of understanding suffering in its rightful context in the life of a committed Christian.

Utilitarianism and Euthanasia Essay

The medical argument that medicine nowadays is so advanced that no one has to suffer excruciating pain nullifies the argument that death is the only means of ending pain. Often the argument put forward by proponents of the legalisation of euthanasia is supported by the condition of a patient who is suffering extreme pain. It is fundamentally important to note that the right to die of a patient who requests euthanasia is equally important as the rights of the medical practitioner who administers it and the nurses who assist in the procedure. My concern is with health care workers who are employed by a government which permits euthanasia in government health centres.

The question is: How free are health care workers to refuse to participate in administering mercy killing? In South Africa, the government, through the Ministry of Health, has argued for palliative care Medical Brief 3 ; i. This is not an easy question, so we cannot expect an easy answer. Presumably, in a hospital which provides certain services the government has legalised, it is the right of the patient to receive those services without hindrance.

We also need to consider the situation of a conscientious objector, whose religion or conscience may not allow him or her to participate in euthanasia but will refer the patient to another doctor. Another question is: What does 'participation' entail? The concept of participation cannot be understood loosely.

For example, it could either be direct or indirect. It is direct when the medical practitioner participates willingly in administering painless death to the patient, but it is indirect in the case of a conscientious objector who refers the patient to someone else to perform the service. Undoubtedly, the only logical expectation of a religious person's participation would be to make a serious effort in changing the conscientious objector's mind and convincing him or her otherwise on the matter of euthanasia.