Active vs. Passive Euthanasia

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The debate on killing versus letting die is a difficult topic to address due to the emotional weight of the subject and the challenge presented by taking a purely rational approach to assessing the resulting moral implications. Using a bare difference argument allows us to see that there is no difference between the two when it comes down to either actively taking part in another person’s death or passively allowing it to happen. In this paper I will explain how Rachel’s use of the bare difference argument as a method works to support his conclusion, as well as argue why his bare difference argument of Smith and Jones effectively supports the thesis that killing is no worse than letting die.

In order to fully understand Rachel’s argument it is necessary to understand the type of argument it represents. The bare difference argument takes the thesis of one argument and applies it to a very different situation. In this case the argument of active versus passive euthanasia is applied to the illustration of Smith and Jones, two individuals presented with a drastically different scenario than someone diagnosed with a terminal illness. The bare difference argument works because if in one situation a thesis is doubted, it allows an opportunity for the thesis to be clarified and gain a better understanding whether you agree with it or disagree by presenting the thesis in contrasting scenario that eliminates variations in order to focus on the specific issue. (Rachels 79) Rachel’s argument states that killing is no worse than letting-die, which is proven through the illustration of the case of Smith versus Jones. Both Smith and Jones stand to gain a large sum of money through the death of a six- year old cousin. On one occasion when Smith is watching the six-year old, the child takes a bath. Smith sees this as an opportunity to kill his cousin, and drowns the child. In a similar scenario, Jones also plans to drown his cousin while watching the six-year old bathe....
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