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Ethics
Health
Philosophy
Ethical aspects of euthanasia (Greek for "good death"), a physician-assisted suicide of a patient with a goal of ending the suffering from a terminal or incurable illness, were debated since the times of Hippocrates. Since then, although modern medicine made a great deal of progress, euthanasia and its validity as a medical practice still leads to controversies. Should a patient in great suffering be able to end his life with the help of a doctor?

Positions

Arguments supporting this position

Details

Context

Euthanasia is traditionally divided on "passive" and "active" euthanasia, based on a role of a physician in the process. "Passive" euthanasia refers to the ending of a patient's life by the deliberate withholding of drugs or other life-sustaining treatment on part of a physician. "Active" euthanasia refers to an act of injecting a patient with a lethal dose of medication with the intention of ending the patient’s life, at the patient’s request.

The Argument

Both active and passive euthanasia ultimately lead to patient's death. The distinction between them is meaningless - there is no ethical difference between letting a patient die and administering a lethal dose of drugs since both happen under a physician's supervision. Moreover, a refusal of active euthanasia while permitting passive one might prolong suffering on a part of a patient, which is contrary to the whole idea of euthanasia, that is relief from incurable pain.

Counter arguments

Two different actions (or omissions of actions) resulting in the same outcome are not necessarily ethically identical since reasons for the decision and circumstances might differ. Actively causing a patient's death is not identical with discontinuation of a treatment, since the former constitutes a deliberate act of an external agent in a patient's organism, while the latter lets a natural process, already in motion, to run its course.

Premises

Both active and passive euthanasia result in a patient's death. In both cases, a physician is involved, either by an action or lack of it, in the process. Therefore, there is no reason to distinguish between the two practices.

Rejecting the premises

There is no basis for treating an act of deliberate killing and an act of forgoing life-sustaining treatment as identical.

References

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This page was last edited on Saturday, 15 Sep 2018 at 16:07 UTC