euthanasia - PHL116 Bioethics Euthanasia I. Euthanasia -...

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PHL116 Bioethics Euthanasia I. Euthanasia - Definitions General Definition of Euthanasia : [Euthanasia is Greek for “good death”.] The intentional taking of the life of a person who is believed to be suffering from an illness or injury from which recovery is not expected [most typically, the terminally ill] for merciful reasons. [Has come to be known as “easy death” in English] Moral question : When, if ever, is a person morally justified to request of another to take measures to end their life? When, if ever, can a health care professional or relative of a person be morally justified in acting in a way that will lead to the death of a patient who has a terminal condition? II. Distinctions relevant to assessing the morality of euthanasia A. 1. Active Euthanasia – taking a definite action to end a life. (“Act of Commission” – e.g., giving a patient a lethal injection) 2. Passive Euthanasia – failing to act when action is necessary in order to save a life or withholding treatment from a patient. (“Act of Omission” e.g., withholding food and water from a terminally ill patient who will die without such nourishment.) B. Voluntary, Nonvoluntary and Involuntary Euthanasia 1. Voluntary Euthanasia – the patient himself/herself, makes the decision to die or explicitly consents to death. (Rationality assessment of patient is necessary for such consent) 2. Nonvoluntary Euthanasia – decision about death is not made by the person who is to die, but instead, by that person’s physician, family members or friends. 3. Involuntary Euthanasia - decision about death is made even against the patient’s wishes. [So in turn, there can be both active and passive voluntary, nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia.] C. Ordinary v. Extraordinary Care 1. Ordinary care – non-invasive, natural, and customary means of sustaining life. 2. Extraordinary care – invasive, artificial, unusual means of sustaining life. III. Two Views on Active and Passive Euthanasia A. J. Gay-Williams “The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia” 1979 Gay-Williams rejects the distinction between active and passive euthanasia, claiming that euthanasia is best defined as involving a specific intention to act in a way to end a human life . He 1
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does not consider withdrawing or withholding treatment from a patient as instances of active euthanasia, because he claims that the intention of taking such measures is to relieve a patient’s suffering rather than to actively kill them. Death in such cases is merely “the unintended consequence of [one’s] action.” (168) Gay-Williams provides three separate arguments against the practice of active euthanasia: 1. Argument from Nature [Natural Law Ethics] P1. Every human being has a natural [biological] inclination to continue living. P3.A. All human beings have an innate capacity to recognize this natural inclination.
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This note was uploaded on 06/15/2011 for the course PHL 116 taught by Professor Sullivan during the Fall '09 term at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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euthanasia - PHL116 Bioethics Euthanasia I. Euthanasia -...

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