Utilitarians vs. Kant on Euthanasia

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Philosophy 1610
22 April 2013
Euthanasia or Just Plain Murder:
The Mercy Death/Killing Debate

Euthanasia is the practice of ending a life in order to release an individual from unbearable suffering or an incurable disease. Euthanasia the word is derived from Ancient Greek, Eu meaning “good” and Thantos meaning “Death” and when combined the term means “Good Death”. Mercy Death by definition is taking a direct action to terminate a person’s life because the person has requested to do so. This also includes physician assisted suicide, not to be confused with suicide which is the taking of one’s life by one’s own hand without assistance. Mercy Killing is also a term used and it refers to someone taking a direct action to terminate a person’s life without the person’s permission. Within this paper I will discuss Immanuel Kant and the utilitarianism ethical theories revolving around the issues of euthanasia. Euthanasia or “mercy killing/death” as it may be referred to as has become more complex as the centuries go on; there are three specific forms of Euthanasia. There is Voluntary, Involuntary, and Nonvoluntary euthanasia. Voluntary Euthanasia is when someone other than the patient intentionally terminates the patient’s life. The term Mercy Death can be applied to this type of Active Euthanasia because the patient is giving voluntary consent; such as a “living will’ or communicating verbally. A “living will” is a written document that the patient who is terminally ill instructs anybody to take his/her own life. Involuntary Euthanasia is the complete opposite of the voluntary form of euthanasia. This is when the patient’s life is taken without the consent of the patient. This form of euthanasia is morally unacceptable and plays no current role in the debate over euthanasia in our modern society. Non-voluntary is a type of euthanasia that happens when a person becomes incapacitated due to being unconscious, comatose or in any other manner that makes the patient unable to make their wishes be known. This responsibility is most often passed onto a family member to make any further decisions in the patient’s future wellbeing. Let’s go even further into defining euthanasia. To understand the debate on this issue we must dig a little bit deeper into the defining of euthanasia. Now the question remains; is it morally right or wrong to take someone else’s life? Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher (1724-1804) who was born in Konigsberg. He studied at the University of Konigsberg and received what is equivalent in today’s society as a PhD in 1755. Kant set the foundation as we know it for what is call “deontology”, by definition this means taking a position that judges the morality of an action based upon the action’s following a set rules or commonly known as duties or obligations. Under Kant’s ethical theory it is wrong to take another person’s life unless it is for capital punishment. According to Kant under no circumstances should euthanasia be legalized or encouraged. One reason for this is that it goes against “The Universal Law”. This states that all moral actions should be both universal and applied to all people in all situations. It also states that if they are not universal then they are in contradictions in The Law of Nature, and if they can’t be willed to be universal they are in contradiction of “The Law of the Will”. In turn act that the maxim (rule of conduct) of our own will, this could always hold at the same time as a principle of establishing “The Universal Law”. As an example the maxim would be killing a person which is not universal because it will lead to the end of the human race as we know it which violates The Law of Nature. It is equally as bad to be Universal because it would lead to your own death and the killing of all your loved ones; this goes against “The Law of the Will”. According to Kant people should always be treated as ends in themselves and not as a means to an end. With this being said...
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