1. How does Rachels define active euthanasia? Passive Euthanasia?
According to Rachels, active euthanasia is the intentional killing of a patient in order to
prevent unnecessary suffering. Passive euthanasia is intentionally letting a patient die in
order to prevent unnecessary suffering.
Summarize Rachels’ main argument (1st article) in favor of active euthanasia. How
does he use (1) the two cases of the Down’s syndrome babies, and (2) the example of
the acts of Smith and Jones, to argue for the major premise in his main argument?
If passive euthanasia is sometimes justifiable, then active euthanasia is sometimes
justifiable (if one is, then the other is).
1.) If PE is sometimes morally permissible, then AE is sometimes morally
2.) PE is sometimes morally permissible
3.) Therefore, AE is sometimes morally permissible
He uses the example of the baby with Down’s syndrome to prove this.
baby who is born with Down’s syndrome can have congenital defects, such as an
“When there is an intestinal blockage, one can ‘let the baby die,’
but when there is no such defect there is nothing that can be done, for one must not ‘kill’
Rachels says that this idea leads to such results as deciding life or death on irrelevant
Jones/Smith example: Jones and Smith stand to gain money if anything should happen to
their six year old cousin.
Smith sneaks into the bathroom and drowns the child.
sneaks in to drown the child as well, but he slips, hits his head, and falls face down in the
water, Jones just stands by and watches him die.
Rachels says that when you refrain from doing something, it is still morally evaluatable.
What is his interpretation of the AMA statement that he quotes? What does Rachels
say about a doctor’s “doing nothing” as opposed to killing his patient, as far as
moral evaluation is concerned?
Rachels argues that according to the AMA doctrine, the matter of life and death is being
decided on irrelevant grounds. Rachels believes that the AMA policy regarding active
euthanasia as wrong should be rejected.
In order to argue this, he explains that the
doctrine prohibits “mercy killing” because it is the intentional termination of a life.
However, Rachels points out that cessation of treatment is also the intentional termination
of a life.
Therefore, the decision to let a patient die is subject to moral appraisal in the
same way that the decision to kill him would be.
Rachels claims that this is why there is
no moral difference between active and passive euthanasia, and the policy should be
rejected from a moral standpoint.
2. How does Sullivan reply to Rachels? Specifically, with what premise of Rachels’
main argument does Sullivan agree?
Sullivan agrees to Rachels’ conditional statement that, if passive euthanasia is justifiable,