Explain the Utilitarian approach to Euthanasia.
I think that both the Hedonistic and the Ideal Utilitarian would argue that voluntary euthanasia is often right. The Hedonistic Utilitarian would say that situations often arise in which a person's continued existence brings more pain than pleasure both to them and to all those who are distressed by their suffering - not to speak of the resources which are being spent on keeping them alive and which would produce more happiness if used in other ways. The Ideal version of Utilitarianism is even more in tune with the views of those who advocate the possibility of death with dignity through voluntary euthanasia. For Ideal Utilitarians can counter the familiar objection to euthanasia - that no one who receives proper expert care need die in pain and distress - by saying that the good that they seek is not mere absence of pain, physical or mental, but the preservation of dignity and the exercise of the human endowment of autonomy.
However, there are severe problems for the Utilitarian approach to the defence of voluntary euthanasia. The first is that it seems to justify too much: might it not sometimes justify involuntary euthanasia? If sufficient numbers of people would gain in happiness and quality of life from the death of one person, the Utilitarian has to agree that such an action would be justified, provided it could be carried out without causing a general panic which would outweigh the hoped-for gain in happiness.
This problem is one example of a general difficulty with Utilitarianism of any kind. If the rightness of an action is to be measured in overall consequences, there is no protection for the individual against the majority: they may do whatever they like to him, provided there is sufficient gain to outweigh his loss. We might put this point by saying that Utilitarianism does not safeguard the individual's rights. And it is just this inability to safeguard individuals' rights that leads many to...
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