In her paper entitled “Euthanasia,” Phillipa Foot notes that euthanasia should be thought of as “inducing or otherwise opting for death for the sake of the one who is to die” (MI, 8). In Moral Matters, Jan Narveson argues, successfully I think, that given moral grounds for suicide, voluntary euthanasia is morally acceptable (at least, in principle). Daniel Callahan, on the other hand, in his “When Self-Determination Runs Amok,” counters that the traditional pro-(active) euthanasia arguments concerning self-determination, the distinction between killing and allowing to die, and the skepticism about harmful consequences for society, are flawed. I do not think Callahan’s reasoning establishes that euthanasia is indeed morally wrong and legally impossible, and I will attempt to show that.
Callahan first goes on to state that euthanasia is different from suicide in that it involves not only the right of a person to self-determination, but the transfer of the right to kill to the acting agent (presumably a physician) as well. This right, however, is temporary and restricted to killing the patient only. It is not clear why this temporary transfer makes euthanasia wrong, for if this is wrong, then letting a patient die (in the case where the patient already has the assistance of life-supporting equipment) is also wrong, if there is no distinction between killing and letting die. So, we must return to this argument after addressing Callahan’s claims of a distinction between killing and allowing to die.
The argument for the distinction is based on the cause of death. In the classic example of a doctor unplugging life-sustaining equipment, the cited cause of death is disease or…
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I have brought forward considerations that counter Callahan’s reasoning against three types of arguments that support euthanasia: the right to self-determination, the insignificant difference between killing and letting a person die by removing their life-support, and euthanasia’s good consequences outweighing the harmful consequences are all positive, relevant and valid factors in the moral evaluation of euthanasia. Callahan’s objections against these reasons do not hold.
MI: Narveson, Jan, ed. Moral Issues. Toronto: Oxford, 1983.
EI: Soifer, Eldon, ed. Ethical Issues. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1997.
MM: Narveson, Jan. Moral Matters. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1993.
Callahan, Daniel. When Self-Determination Runs Amok, in Hastings Center Report, March-April 1992, pp. 52-55. In EI, pp.409-415.
Euthanasia Essay: The Correct Choice for Many
Euthanasia – The Correct Choice for Many
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are words to live by despite any obstacles that any person might endure. A person should live in a constant understanding that life will always have struggles, but one should feel as though their life is worth living. A person has the right to believe that life should always be composed of the capability to be spiritual, physical, emotional, and to be a social being all at the same time, therefore the quality of life is far more valuable than the length of time under any circumstances. Euthanasia is acceptable under the impression that a person will never again, and does not have the ability to live a quality of life.
A life filled with quality means a different thing for each individual. For some people as long as they are able to make money, live in a great house, are able to walk, talk, see, and hear, their life is filled with everything they need to live richly. For others, as long as they can be free, be happy and function with a little help from technology (such as pills, or an artificial limb), they are living life that incorporates high quality into their life. For example, Robert Powell, who has permanent paraplegia once said
Physician-assisted suicide is contrary to the concept of equality for everyone. Very often the group most targeted by physician-assisted suicide is the disabled community because the “quality of life” of its members is deemed to be “poor” by people outside the community. Robert once said, As a disabled person, I enjoy life just as much as anybody else does. I can do things that just about anybody else can do. It is a matter of [how you] perceive “quality of life.” You ask one person about his definiti…
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…rdin, Joseph C. A Moral Vision For America. Ed. John P. Langan. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1998.
Higginson, Richard. Dilemmas: A Christian Approach To Moral Decision Making. Louisville: Westminster/ John Knox Press, 1988.
Hilton, Bruce. First Do Not Harm: Wrestling With The New Medicine’s Life And Death Dilemmas. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991.
O’Rourke, Kevin D., and Dennis Brodeur, PhD. Medical Ethics: Common Ground For Understanding. St. Louis: The Catholic Health Association Of The United States, 1986.
Rogers, John, ed. Medical Ethics, Human Choices: A Christian Perspective. Scottdale: Herald Press,1988.
author unknown. “It”s OK- isn’t it?”. Euthanasia: killing the dying. 30 Nov. 1999. http://www.euthanasia.com/case3.html
author unknown. “Euthanasia Facts.” Euthanasia.com. 5 Jun. 1996.