End of Life Issues
Jermaine N. Hairston
PHI 208: Ethics and Moral Reasoning
May 12, 2014
Euthanasia means “good death” but today the term is deemed as a merciful action to rid someone of suffering. In many cases we have seen terminally ill patients euthanized active or passive, yet for the sake of my essay I will discuss active euthanasia. End of life issues is a topic many families are faced with everyday more than one likes to imagine; however, imagine that you were a significant other who has a loved one in the hospital suffering from a terminal illness and their pain is unbearable that your loved one has decided to end his life and the subject of euthanasia comes up. What would you do? The first thought that would come to mind is that this is morally wrong and unacceptable in our society. I will talk about euthanasia and how three ethical theories presented in this course would better help answer your question of euthanasia being morally wrong. The moral theory of Immanuel Kant’s Deontology helps ethically with the views of euthanasia and the strengths and weakness of egoism and Utilitarianism will also be presented. This is where the deontological approach might help a family understand that it’s morally acceptable to comfort their loved one as he or she accepts active euthanasia as a means to end their life. Deontology argues that an action is right or wrong in itself irrespective of the consequences and it is our duty our good will as Kant puts it to do the right thing. I ask the question what determines that right thing. Might it be religion and the word of god for those that believe in God or might it be for you several universal principles. Kant’s categorical says to Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end. In other words, all people—including you—deserve respect. It would always be wrong to treat people as objects, or as a way of achieving some goal, or in another way that does not show respect. (Kant 1997, 1998) that we treat people as ends in themselves and not means to our ends. In other words we must respect the wishes of the patient. The strengths of Deontology as it relates to euthanasia is that the deontology argument is based on rules and an action is good if it follows the rule. The results doesn’t matter the only thing that matters is that we treat others with respect and love for that is something we should want for ourselves. The right to choose euthanasia is a right in its own and to also appeal to some natural laws when you say that a person “should be able to choose whether they live or die.” These are both rules. Your argument is that euthanasia is consistent with these rules and is therefore ethical. This is a deontological argument. Although, Kant held that if one commits suicide because one believes that the remainder of one’s life will be filled with more discomfort than pleasure, then one fails to treat oneself as an end and so long as one retains the capacities that would make you a person than one should always respect that life. Critics of deontology stated that the Kantian version seems too sterile and fails to capture some of the complex issues that arise when we confront ethical problems in real life (moser, 2013). The weakness to my argument as it relates to deontology and euthanasia is that taking your own life will not be morally acceptable in today’s society. With that being said, Kant did not believe in the outcome of an action or whether or not it’s ethical. When considering euthanasia, then, Kant will not be interested in the level of suffering of the patient or relatives. He would not agree that we should do the loving thing. He would work out what the right thing to do was. With Kant’s categorical imperative Kant assumes that being a moral person is a requirement and Universalizing the maxim "I...
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