euth - Active and Passive Euthanasia: a Question of...

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Active and Passive Euthanasia: a Question of Sameness The topic for my essay is euthanasia. The question I will be addressing is the following: is active involuntary euthanasia by physicians morally justified and thus deserving of legal protection? Melanie Phillips, in her internet editorial “So would you want a doctor to end your life against your wishes?” provides an argument that is strongly opposed to all euthanasia, the active involuntary type in particular. Phillips claims that legalizing euthanasia will lead society away from its Judeo-Christian roots and down a slippery slope towards Nazi eugenics, thus rendering the practice morally impermissible. From a Utilitarian viewpoint, Ms. Phillips’ argument is fundamentally unsound, as it ignores all of its consequences. Ms. Phillips’ argument is as follows: P1. There is no moral distinction between active involuntary and passive involuntary euthanasia. P2. Passive involuntary euthanasia is currently legal. P3. If there is no real moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia, then it is only a matter of time before active involuntary euthanasia is legalized as well. P4. Legalizing active involuntary euthanasia “opens up the vista of the wholesale killing of people because they are deemed too inconvenient, useless, or expensive to keep alive.” (direct quote) P5. Anything which opens up the vista of the wholesale killing of people because they are deemed too inconvenient, useless, or expensive to keep alive is morally wrong ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- C1. Legalizing any involuntary euthanasia is morally wrong. Phillips rejects the American Medical Association’s notion that withdrawing feeding tubes from patients on life support merely allows them to die of natural causes and is thus not euthanasia. According to her, “This was clearly not true, since these patients were not dying in the first place”. Phillips claims that there is an essential difference between the use of feeding tubes, which can sustain life indefinitely, and ventilators which can only keep the brain-dead alive for a short time. Phillips
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believes that the removal of feeding tubes is nothing more than a slow, painful way to actively euthanize someone. Although the existence of a true delineation between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia is controversial issue that could be contested, for the purpose of this essay I will take it Phillips’ view as a moral fact. I do not wish to challenge her reasoning for premise 1; instead I will move on to premise 2. Premise 2 is a descriptive fact. Passive euthanasia is supported by both the AMA and by the
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This note was uploaded on 03/29/2008 for the course PHIL 140g taught by Professor Kwon during the Fall '07 term at USC.

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euth - Active and Passive Euthanasia: a Question of...

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