Religion and Bioethics: Physician Assisted Suicide, a Religious Perspective

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The article I read examined the link between bioethics and religion in regards to Physician-Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia. Specifically, it made an obvious point of defining the distinction between killing and letting one die. In addition, it focused on the link between Faith and Reason, the development of tradition throughout history, modern statements on this ethical dilemma, and then drew conclusions based upon these analyses. These are all significant points to consider when attempting to determine the morality of physician-assisted suicide/euthanasia. In order to fully understand the “euthanasia debate,” it is crucial to look at our two main theoretical camps: deontological or “Kantian” ethics, and teleological or “utilitarian” ethics. Both sides make valid points regarding this bioethical issue. Therefore, in order to form your own opinion/make conclusions on this matter, it is crucial to have substantial knowledge regarding the assertions on both sides of the argument – this is the only way in which to truly make sound arguments/draw valid conclusions. Immanuel Kant’s deontological theory of ethics is the normative ethical position that evaluates the morality of actions. Unlike the empiricist supporters of Utilitarianism, Kant was an unquestionable supporter of rationalism; the idea that pure reason can tell us how the world is, independent of experience. This idea is referred to as an a priori approach, because it makes the assumption that reasoning or knowledge is denoted from theoretical deduction rather than from observation or experience. To followers of this theory the act itself must be morally right. It is for this reason that the deontological perspective would be considered one of ethical absolutism or objectivism, rather than ethical relativism. In this case, supporters of Kant’s theory would argue that there are moral rules which hold for all persons in all situations, and which allow for no exception. They might even take this ideal further and assert that these “moral rules” are implanted by God into every person; in doing so supporting the idea of a “common morality,” or truly universal moral standard. The intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being does not change depending on their circumstances” (Pope John Paul II.) Kant did not judge the morality of actions based upon their consequences, as the consequentialist supporters of teleological theory did. Instead, he placed a heavier emphasis on the purity of the motive that that produced the action. Furthermore, above anything, Kant believed that people are rational beings who have intrinsic value in and of themselves. This idea is strikingly different from the hedonistic assertion that pleasure and happiness are the only intrinsic “goods.” In fact, the entire deontological perspective is based upon the notion that every person has a worth and dignity equal to that of every other person. This central idea is one of the core beliefs that support Kant’s supreme principle – the categorical imperative or “moral law.” The categorical imperative is composed of two fundamental formulations: (1) Act only on that maxim that you can will a universal law and (2) always treat humanity never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end. The first formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative makes reference to the requirement that all moral actions should be acts that which ought to be applied to everyone. Whereas the second facet of Kant’s categorical imperative states that: “we must always treat humanity, whether in your own person or that of another, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end.” This statement refers to Kant’s belief that people do not have the right to treat other persons as mere means to an end. A good illustration of these elements would be Kant’s murderer at the door example. This scenario illustrates one’s perfect duty not to act by maxims that result in logical...
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