Voluntary Euthanasia Argumentative Essay
Voluntary Euthanasia OutlineThesis Statement
Compared with the right to life, human dignity is equally important. A person should
have the right to decide to keep his life, or to give up his life with dignity. Therefore, under
patient’s consent, voluntary euthanasia should be allowed.
In the introduction, I will broadly define euthanasia, voluntary euthanasia, and give a
brief overview of regions where the concept is practiced. For instance, in the United Kingdom,
voluntary euthanasia is illegal. Any medical practitioner caught practicing assisted dying on
patients faces distinctive consequences, including imprisonment. The Netherlands is among the
few countries in the world where euthanasia is practiced broadly and legally. In the United
States, euthanasia is illegal in a majority of states. Over the years, debates over the morality and
ethicality of voluntary euthanasia have attracted considerable attention from medical care
practitioners, politicians, philosophers, and scholars globally. Many debates opposing the
practice base their arguments on the need for human life. In this paper, I argue that the right to
life is equally important as human dignity. Therefore, under the consent of the patient, voluntary
euthanasia should be allowed, as people have a right to live their life with dignity.
The main argument to be used in the paper in support of legalizing voluntary euthanasia
is that human beings have a right to self-determination. The paragraph will focus on previous
research on the right of patients to informed consent, and why this right should be respected. In
healthcare, medical practitioners are guided by the principle of autonomy, which states that
patients have a right to make independent decisions. This right considerably protects the dignity
of the patients. Therefore, voluntary euthanasia should be allowed, based on the fact that the
patients have given their informed consent to undergo the procedure.
The main opposition against the idea of legalizing euthanasia is that there is no way to
confirm that this practice is what patients really want. Patients at their deathbed may be suffering
from such conditions as depression and anxiety, limiting their soundness in making decisions.
This argument will be used to counter the proposed claim that voluntary euthanasia is a patient’s
Legalizing voluntary euthanasia would not produce disastrous consequences for the
patients and the healthcare providers. This paragraph will argue that legalizing the practice has
not been proven to have any negative impacts. Voluntary euthanasia has been successful in other
countries, such as the Netherlands, where the practice is legal.
One of the main objections to the claim that legalizing voluntary euthanasia would not
have negative impacts is the slippery slope theory, which states that legalizing euthanasia would
eventually cripple the healthcare system. For instance, such a scenario would give unscrupulous
medical practitioners the freedom to kill patients irrationally. The right to life argument is used
as an objection to this claim.
Another claim supporting legalizing voluntary euthanasia is that there is no distinctive
difference between the practice and withdrawing life-support machines. Therefore, this
paragraph will research the arguments supporting the notion that if physicians can deem it fit to
remove patients from life support machines; this is no different from voluntary euthanasia.
Besides, there exists little research differentiating the two. Therefore, it is not reasonable to
legalize removal of life support machines, which kills the patients, yet illegalize euthanasia.
The main argument against the third claim is the potential for abuse, should voluntary
euthanasia be legalized. Medical practitioners remove patients from life-sustenance machines
when necessary, when they are sure that the patient will not survive should they be kept in the
life sustenance devices. On the other hand, in voluntary euthanasia, most patients still have a
chance of recovery.
The concluding paragraph will summarize the main arguments for and against legalizing
voluntary euthanasia. The paragraph will then provide reasons why the benefits of legalizing
euthanasia outweigh the objections, based on arguments provided throughout the paper. The final
portion of the conclusion section will restate the thesis statement, which states that voluntary
euthanasia should be allowed.
4.2 Objection 2
A second, related objection to the moral and legal permissibility of voluntary euthanasia turns on
the claim that we can never have sufficient evidence to be justified in believing that a dying
person’s request to be helped to die is competent, enduring and genuinely voluntary.
It is certainly true that a request to die may not reflect an enduring desire to die (just as some
attempts to commit suicide may reflect only temporary despair). That is why advocates of the
legalization of voluntary euthanasia have argued that a cooling off period should normally be
required before euthanasia is permitted to ensure that the request is enduring. That having been
said, to claim that we can never be justified in believing that someone’s request to die reflects a
settled preference for death is to go too far. If a competent person discusses the issue with
others on different occasions over time, and remains steady in her resolve, or privately reflects
on the issue for an extended period and does not waver in her conviction, her wish to die surely
must be counted as enduring.
But, it might be asked, what if a person is racked with pain, or mentally confused because of the
measures taken to relieve her pain, and is, in consequence, unable to think clearly and
rationally about the alternatives? It has to be agreed that a person in those circumstances who
wants to die should not be assumed to have a truly voluntary and enduring desire to die.
However, there are at least two important points to make about those in such circumstances.
First, they do not account for all of the terminally ill, so even if it is acknowledged that such
people are incapable of agreeing to voluntary euthanasia that does not show that no one can
ever voluntarily request help to die. Second, it is possible in at least some jurisdictions for a
person to indicate, in advance of losing the capacity to give competent consent, how she would
wish to be treated should she become terminally ill and suffer either intolerable pain or an
unacceptable loss of control over her life (cf., for instance, Dworkin 1993). ‘Living wills’ or
‘advance directives’ are legal instruments for giving voice to people’s wishes while they are
capable of giving competent, enduring and voluntary consent, including to their wanting help to
die. As long as they are easily revocable in the event of a change of mind (just as civil wills are),
they should be respected as evidence of a well thought-out conviction. (For more detailed
consideration of these instruments see the entry on advance directives.)
Perhaps, though, what is really at issue in this objection is whether anyone can ever form a
competent, enduring and voluntary judgement about being better off dead, rather than
continuing to suffer from an illness, prior to suffering such an illness (cf., Keown in Jackson and
Keown 2012). If this is what underlies the objection it is surely too paternalistic to be acceptable.
Why is it not possible for a person to have sufficient inductive evidence (e.g., based on the
experience of the deaths of friends or family) to know her own mind, and act accordingly,
without having had direct experience of such suffering?
First Writing Assignment
Writing philosophically is difficult, and difficult to do well. Most philosophy papers require more
extensive preparation in order to communicate clearly the contributions of the author. For this reason I
have designed the first “paper” in this course to not be a paper at all.
For this assignment I want you to compose a detailed outline in preparation for a full paper. You will not
have to write this paper now (but you will be doing so for the second assignment). As such, the
emphasis is on the “detailed” of “detailed outline”. I want to see you include in the outline every point,
idea, argument, and observation you would plan on including in the paper. This assignment, in short, is
to do all the intellectual work behind the writing of the paper.
Length is a subjective matter for this assignment, but I don’t imagine that you can do an adequate job in
under two pages. You’re going to have to identify (even if you don’t fully explain) the ideas you plan on
including, and it should be clear to me what are the claims you plan to make in the paper and how you
will defend them. Remember again that philosophical writing is and should be denser then much other
academic writing. I’m not going to be too formal about my evaluation here, I just want to see you
making an authentic effort to get into the exploration of your chosen topic.
Grading for this assignment will concern almost entirely the conceptual depth and density with which
you compose your outline. A thesis with a couple throw-away defenses will not cut it. If you follow the
attached procedure, you should find yourself with more than enough to build a detailed, complex
discussion of your topic. Clarity and organization will also factor into your grade for this assignment, so
even though this is only an outline, it may still be a good idea to do some revisions!
As far as acceptable topics go, I have decided to let you have more or less free reign in what you want to
work on. We’re only a few weeks into the semester and there isn’t a wide variety of topics available for
you to choose from if I limited you to course material. So instead I propose the following: pick a topic of
some more general universal import. Something related to how to understand the Human Condition,
Experience, or the way the World is in general would make great topics. It would also be hard to go
wrong with taking a topic related to Ethics or Morality. Another useful guide for considering a topic is to
pick something related to possible perspectives we can take on our lives and the world. Philosophy
doesn’t limit itself to a particular one or type of these perspectives, and it wouldn’t be too controversial
to say that philosophy lives in the space where we compare these perspectives against each other.
Pick a narrow topic, but don’t limit it by contextualizing it to just your experience or into some restricted
conditions. Approach whatever issue you pick as if it was part of a discussion that would not be limited
to a specific cultural or other circumstantial background. Finally, as I have tried to articulate in class, I
want you to really dive into whatever question or issue you want to explore – don’t just poke at the
issue from afar, speaking to what others have or would say on the issue. Try to get inside the question;
imagine it from the vantage point of someone who has to make a decision on how to answer that
question and what things you think they should be considering. I think the philosophers we’ve already
read may give you a good idea of what this kind of engagement looks like, but if you are having any
further trouble with picking out a topic or in figuring out how I want you to approach it, please contact
me so we can talk about it. Consider me available for assistance throughout the week up to the day the
assignment is due.
The attached summary of my lecture for next week may also be of assistance. Please take a look:
These steps do not necessarily need to follow rigidly in the order they are presented in, but they are all
covering facets of the overall process that are good to keep in mind.
#1: Picking a topic
There are 2 general categories of motivations philosophers have in picking topics to discuss:
Sometimes a philosopher already has an answer to some question that we wonder about and so
they start with the knowledge of where they want to go (their conclusion) and the process
becomes a matter of giving a defense of this answer/position. Maybe you already have an
opinion on some matter that you would like to work with to see what can be said for it.
Other times (many times!), a philosopher just starts with a question they are curious about and
wants to explore more. In this case they may not have an immediate answer, or even a starting
guess, and the process becomes exploring the question and what things will be considerations
we will have to weigh. Perhaps you are in this boat where you’ve wondered about something
but are not yet confident or comfortable claiming that a particular answer to that question is the
right one. This is totally ok! You don’t have to have all the answers before you start out on the
journey of writing a philosophy paper.
Whatever your motivation is, you want the paper to end up engaging with a matter of some substance
and significance. You don’t want a paper that ends up defending an uncontroversial answer to a
question that no one finds perplexing. Don’t be afraid to try to tackle something you are not 100%
confident about. The philosophical process is an ongoing one where we sort out the various
considerations together, rather than accepting answers based on the authority of the author.
Also be looking for potential opponents. This will be easy if you are approaching things from the first
direction mentioned above, but even if you are starting with the second, you should end up making a
claim by the end of the process and being aware of the other possible answers out there that will be in
disagreement is good. If you can find a strong opponent to your conclusion, that is a good sign you have
a substantial topic.
In balance with all of this is making sure that you are able to accomplish (more or less) what you set out
to defend. If your topic is too broad it will be impossible to give a satisfactory defense of what you are
trying to claim. Too narrow, and you run the risk of it being insubstantial. This is a hard balancing act
that mostly requires experience to judge, but a sensitivity to this possibility even for new students of
philosophy is a good thing in my opinion.
#2: Identifying a thesis
Your thesis is your conclusion that you will be spending the paper trying to defend. Every philosophy
paper needs a claim like this. Even if you are starting out just exploring a question, by the end of things
you need to adopt some position on that question and make whatever case you can. Again, don’t feel
like you have to be dogmatic about your opinion before you can set about defending it. You can even
say as much in your paper! You can say something like, “I’m not completely confident this is the right
answer because of x, y, z (reasons that may be in tension with your conclusion), but reasons a, b, c (or
however many you have) seem to make a good case for my conclusion”. Such modesty is totally
appropriate when the situation calls for it (i.e. there must be some reasons x, y, z available!), but also
don’t make the mistake of being overly modest when you have in fact presented strong support for your
Finally, I want to emphasize that while defining a thesis may happen at the start of this process it also
may not. In either case, most theses will get modified and adjusted as you go about the work of putting
together the paper. You may find that the arguments you come up with are able to justify a stronger
thesis then what you originally had in mind, or you may find it is too hard to defend your original thesis
and you’ll have to weaken it. Be open to this possibility as you go to work.
Two variables are particularly important when defining a thesis:
Scope: this is similar to the suggestions I’ve been making regarding the journals. Don’t make
your topic to broad – find a manageable topic that you’ll be able to give a good treatment to in
the space you have available. Since you are only doing an outline, you may feel you can be more
ambitious, but just keep in mind that the bigger the topic, the more you’ll have to say to support
any conclusions you draw about it.
▪ We never know anything (too broad)
▪ The subjectivity of perception undermines our claims to know things on the
basis of our experience (much more manageable)
Strength: this is parallel to scope in that the stronger the thesis, the more defense is required in
support. Let’s look at a couple of examples to explain:
▪ The subjectivity of perception undermines our claims to know things on the
basis of our experience
• (this is still a strong claim since it rules out a number of ways we may try
to justify knowledge based on experience, AND because inferring from
our experience is a commonly accepted basis for knowledge)
▪ The subjectivity of perception threatens to undermine our claims to know things
on the basis of our experience
• This is weaker since “threatens” does not yet assert that the threat is
successful. All that would be required for this thesis is to provide
reasonable support to the existence of a concern that is in tension with
our claims to knowledge based on experience.
o In this example, the first is stronger not only because if true it rules out more opponents,
but also because it controversially denies something we usually take to be
uncontroversial. The more controversial the claim, the stronger it is and the more
defense it requires
Strength also concerns the force in which a claim is asserted:
• We possibly don’t know
• We plausibly don’t know
• We don’t know
• We certainly don’t know
• We necessarily can’t know
▪ These proceed in increasing strength
Watch strength because it is tempting to assert our claims more forcefully in order to
express confidence, but confidence doesn’t always come with enough supporting
reasons to justify it! Philosophers are never (ideally) convinced of something only on the
basis of the conviction of the one arguing – conviction is not a substitute for giving good
reasons in support.
Finally, when deciding on a thesis, it can be useful to get straight on the following two things:
What is the precise question my thesis is supposed to be an answer to?
What are my motivations behind defending this thesis and not another?
These should help you get starting identifying what kinds of reasons and considerations you want to be
bringing up in the course of the paper and what stuff is actually off track. It also helps make sure you are
defending only what you need/want to, without leaving out anything OR adding claims you really might
not need to in order to get your point across.
#3: the first pass
The next step is to make a (revisable) list of the points, observations, arguments etc that first strike you
as you approach the question, topic, or position that is your chosen subject. Most of the papers I’ve
gotten in the past from students only make it this far. And while this is a crucial step in the process of
writing a paper, it is not the end of the road.
If you are starting with a question: listing the various significant considerations related to answering the
question should give you an idea of what answer you want to pick up and run with. After this step might
be a good time to go back to #2 and work out defining a thesis.
If you are starting with an answer: First look to why you are at this point convinced of your position.
What has maybe been in the “back of your head” when you’ve formed this opinion in the past. Once
you’ve got down what has led you to this position up to this point, spend time seeing if you can’t
brainstorm some new reasons for the position that you may not have considered before but which
provide additional support.
#4: the second pass: filling gaps
This stage is for looking over your list of considerations and seeing if anything needs to be added in
order to just make your story sensible. Perhaps you make a leap in logic that could be filled in so that
your reader can follow what’s going on. It is easy to make assumptions as far as how your audience will
understand what you are trying to say, and this stage is just to take a step back to see how much you
may be taking for granted and fixing that.
#5: the third pass: validity/sufficiency
This time going through your list you should be looking for ways in which a reader could agree to all your
points while still disagreeing with your thesis. See if what you’ve said is really enough to convince
anyone who doesn’t take issue with your arguments.
Today is a Monday, so you should give me $5.
o Someone can agree with the truth of the premise (that today is Monday) without
agreeing that the conclusion (you should give me $5) follows from this point.
A less silly example:
We need an America with strong values, and I haven’t ever broken the law (unlike my opponent
who has held 3 parking violations in his life), so you should vote for me.
o Again, the premises may be true, and they may even provide SOME support for the
conclusion, but maybe not ENOUGH support – like I hope is clear in this case!
If you find that someone could take a (sensible) stance that agrees with you on your premises but not
your conclusion, then see if you can’t fix this by providing more support or including more premises that
forge a tighter link between your conclusion and the premises. Sometimes the answer is to weaken the
#6: the fourth pass: soundness
Here you should now look for ways the truth of your points could be called into question. Perhaps there
is some controversy over your claims in support of your conclusion. Get clear on how such objections
might go and find ways to address them (or avoid them by adjusting the claims in your argument).
Sincerely going through this step will probably help you find much more to say in your paper if you were
originally worried you might not have enough to say. Remember charity! (try to make your opponents
look as strong as possible so that you give them a fair presentation and so that when you argue against
them you are accomplishing more)
#7: the fifth pass: perspective
Now step REALLY back and look for ways in which your topic may be approached in alternative ways.
Compare and contrast, but first just do this for yourself (don’t necessarily include it in the paper) as a
way of exploring the ideas related to the issue. The similarities and differences between your
perspective and others may possibly not contribute to the discussion of what answers we have the best
reasons for. If such similarities/differences DO contribute, then they may be a good addition, but don’t
just put them in automatically (this is the biggest source of “space filling” which I will not appreciate so
much – remember how I talked about how I want you to get “into” the issue of giving an answer and not
just talking about different ways people COULD answer).
This step can take the longest and demand the most imagination on your part (in addition to holding a
lot of things up in the air at the same time), but many times it is where things are the most dynamic in
terms of getting straight on your own view and the best way to go about defending it.
(if you didn’t start with a thesis, but instead with a question, you should probably do this step alongside
Another CRUCIAL step. This is where you decide what order to place your content in. Many things can
inform this including:
Argumentative structure: generally keep claims and the arguments they support together
o This is probably already obvious. If you have a chain of reasoning, don’t split it up with
other points that are not relevant to that chain.
Uncontroversial -> controversial
o Start with the more uncontroversial and move to the controversial
Simple -> complex
Common -> uncommon
Direct -> indirect connection to the “source” material (this being wherever the discussion
o Along with this is: significant -> less significant to your core position
o The idea here is to start with the stuff that matters more to your discussion and leave
the curiosities toward the end. If there’s one point or set of points that you think are the
most important reasons for your conclusion, don’t save them all for the very end unless
this contradicts all the other variables listed here
In general, you also want to be clear in alerting your reader to 1) where you’re going and 2) how you are
planning to get there. Philosophical papers should not be like leading us blinding through a bunch of
points to a surprise answer. This virtue of philosophical writing becomes more important at the draft
stage of paper composition (as opposed to the outline stage), but it is still good to mention now.
A final note on Audience
Identifying an audience is important when defining a thesis, but most of the time it won’t be necessary
to imagine any substantial philosophical views on their part. For example, Jackson may be imagining
certain philosophical beliefs of his readers in his paper on Mary (this is why he puts in the 3 clarifications
in order to head off possible objections) since he is arguing against a certain common view (physicalism).
But his paper is a very focused addition to an ongoing conversation. Your papers will probably not have
so specific a purpose, so don’t worry too much about such things.
My advice if you are going to imagine an audience is to imagine someone who is open, curious, but
critical (in a non-antagonistic sort of way). They will listen to whatever you want to say, but they won’t
just accept your arguments rolling over, unless you really do provide good reasons in defense of your
position. I, for some reason, always imagine Morgan Freeman, but go for whatever works for you. Think
of an audience that will be a part of that whole co-operative truth seeking thing with you.
Hope this helps!!!!
Let me know if there is any way I can help you out more!!!
(Contemporary debates of applied ethics)!
Summary of “In Defense of Voluntary Active Euthanasia and!
Assisted Suicide” by Michael Tooley and!
“A Case Against Euthanasia” by Daniel Callahan!
Before I start summarising the two articles, I would like to put on the top of this work the most
common description of the term “euthanasia”. So Euthanasia is: “the painless killing of a patient
suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma. Origin: early 17th cent.
(in the sense ‘easy death’): from Greek, from eu ‘well’ + thanatos ‘death’.”1 The topic of euthanasia
is one that is shrouded with much ethical debate and ambiguity. In the beginning of his work,
Michael Tooley clearly describes what is his main goal, i.e. to defend the claims that first: neither
voluntary active euthanasia nor assisting someone to commit suicide is in any way morally wrong;
secondly, there should be no laws prohibiting such actions, in the relevant cases. After that it is
really important to make the distinction of the tree considered types of euthanasia, which are:
voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia refers to euthanasia
performed at the request of the patient. Involuntary euthanasia is the term used to describe the
situation where euthanasia is performed when the patient does not request it, with the intent of
relieving their suffering – which, sometimes can be considered as a murder. Non-voluntary
euthanasia relates to a situation where euthanasia is performed when the patient is incapable of
making a decision.
After that we can see the important dichotomy of “active” and “passive” cases of euthanasia. Active
euthanasia refers to the deliberate act, usually through the intentional administration of drugs, to end
a terminally ill patient’s life. On the other hand, supporters of euthanasia use “passive euthanasia”
to describe the deliberate withdrawal of life-prolonging medical treatment resulting in the patient’s
death. We can conclude that the main difference between active voluntary euthanasia and assisted
suicide is that in physician-assisted suicide, the patient performs the killing act. Physician-assisted
suicide refers to a situation where a physician intentionally assists a patient, at their request, to end
his or her life, for example, by the provision of information and drugs. It must be noted that
The description is taken from “The Oxford Dictionary of English”
euthanasia is currently illegal in most of the countries in the world, although, there are a handful of
countries and states where acts of euthanasia are legally permitted under certain conditions. There
are many arguments that have been put forward for and against euthanasia. Following the article
we can see the consideration of one very important side of the whole question, which is the defence
of the assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia and later the author had contrasted it with the
voluntary passive case of euthanasia. Michael Tooley gives the readers an exhaustive list of
premises that are in big favour and protection of the voluntary active euthanasia and after that we
can see the successful logical verification of each of them. “Provided that one does not have any
obligations to others that would make it wrong for one to provide someone with voluntary active
euthanasia, then the difference between helping someone to end his or her life, and doing it for that
person, cannot be morally significant.”2 So we can consider that every patient has the right to make
the decision by his or her own about whether and how the should die, based on the principles of
autonomy without causing harm to others. As every individual should have the right to control their
life and make their decisions concerning death. In this case it is more than obvious, I think, that by
performing euthanasia more good than harm would be done to the suffering patient. It is a famous
view that the fundamental moral values of society require that no person should be let to suffer and
die in suffering, instead of that merciful act of euthanasia should be permissible. And in that way
the patient can peacefully reach their dignified death.
It was proven that voluntary active euthanasia and assisted suicide are not morally wrong in
themselves. Tooley actually synthesised it in one perfect description of the case: “The only intrinsic
difference between voluntary active euthanasia and voluntary passive euthanasia is that the former
is a case of killing, and the latter a case of letting die.”3 It is a common fact that usually supporters
of euthanasia claim that active euthanasia is not morally worse than passive euthanasia – the
withdrawal or withholding of medical treatments that result in a patient’s death. With this view, it is
argued that active euthanasia should be permitted just as passive euthanasia is allowed. It is
interesting to see that in the last chapter of his article Michael Tooley is using as an example the
theory of James Rachels, who is a well-known proponent of the euthanasia. He thinks that there is
no moral difference between killing and letting die, because the intention is usually similar based on
a utilitarian point of view. Rachels even argues that “Historical and anthropological evidence that
approval of killing in one context does not necessarily lead to killing in different circumstances”
Tooley M., “In Defense of Voluntary Active Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide”, p. 167, in
“Contemporary debates of applied ethics”, Blackwell;
and of course we can see the usage of this argument in Tooley`s article.4 So the active euthanasia
actually is considered as more humane than the passive one. Never mind the religious arguments
against the euthanasia case (and they are really serious), I think that a big percentage of the
reasonable persons in one society should agree that a quick and painless death (active euthanasia) is
much better for one human being than a slow painful and sometimes “everlasting” process of dying,
similar to torturing. So we can put a moral question here that can deal with the cases of euthanasia:
Is it better for a patient to experience a quick and painless death possible with one pill, or the
patient`s life must be prolongated with a breathing machine (for example) next to their until they
finally die? Opponents of euthanasia argue that there is a clear moral distinction between actively
terminating a patient’s life and withholding treatment which ends a patient’s life. Letting a patient
die from an incurable disease may be seen as allowing the disease to be the natural cause of death
without moral responsibility. But life-support treatment merely postpones death and when
interventions are withdrawn, the patient’s death is caused by the underlying disease. Central to the
argument against euthanasia is society’s view of the sacred status of life, and this can have both a
secular and a religious basis. The essential element is that human life must be respected and
preserved. The Christian view sees life as a gift from God, who ought not to be ended by the taking
of that life. Similarly the Islamic faith says that it is only God`s will to give life and cause death.
The withdrawal of treatment is permitted when the condition of the patient is futile, as this is seen
as allowing the natural course of death. Some sides and opinions against the act of euthanasia was
just mentioned in the above rows, but now we should go deep to the other side of the topic in the
case against euthanasia and see the main problems that Daniel Callahan rises in his article. Callahan
is worried about the social consequences of legalising euthanasia. He thinks that proponents of
euthanasia mistakenly interpreted the decision to end one’s life (with assistance) as a private
decision, and consequently as something that should be left in the zone of self-determination. We
can consider that as wrong because euthanasia is necessarily a social act: something that requires
the assistance of another individual. Otherwise, I mean without the assistance of another individual
we can consider the act of ending ones`s life as a suicide. For example the common views of the
society in a situation of voluntarily active euthanasia and in spite of patient`s consent, considers it
as primordially wrong. Callahan who`s work is against the act of euthanasia describes the practice
of active voluntary euthanasia as “consenting adult killing”.
Tooley M., “In Defense of Voluntary Active Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide”, p. 174, in
“Contemporary debates of applied ethics”, Blackwell;
Here I think is important to pay much more attention to the serious contrast of situations of killing
and letting die. The reason this is important when it comes to euthanasia is that some people think
that there is no problem for an individuals to refuse life-preserving medical treatment (and let
themselves die), but do not think it is acceptable for the same individuals (with assistance from their
doctors or families) to take active steps toward killing themselves. And that can create a case of
serious moral dilemma and confusion in the society. It is a common case that euthanasia advocates
are trying to exploit the openness of people to the passive forms of euthanasia when defending its
active forms. They do this by arguing that there is no important moral difference between killing
and letting die. As it was mentioned above the name of James Rachels is often used as a “symbol”
as he was perhaps the leading proponent of this argument. Of course unsurprisingly Callahan rejects
it. He thinks that proponents of the “no difference” argument are wrong and confused, because they
fail to appreciate the nature of a doctor’s decision to “let someone die”. Basically, he points out that
life is fatal and that ultimately, doctors can’t prevent death, they can only postpone it. Thus, they
aren’t really killing people when they are retreating the treatment, they are just making unavoidable
decisions about the best use of medical resources. Probably Callahan’s analysis is a little uncertain
here. There are complex issues to be addressed in determining what counts as a cause of something,
and he fails to discuss those. On the other hand we can see Tooley’s argument, which opposes
Callahan’s, that does not rely on this killing versus letting die distinction and so the issue can be
sidestepped by the euthanasia advocates. As we proceed with the article we can find, as it was
already noted one of Callahan’s primary worries about euthanasia i.e., if euthanasia is worldwide
legalised, it will be add to the range of permissible killing in society. And if we add it to the range of
permissible killing, sure we will find ourselves in a very difficult and disturbing situation. He
illustrates his point by a reference to a study done on the regulation of euthanasia in the Netherlands
(“The Dutch experience”). Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Dutch courts allowed certain
conditions for euthanasia cases. Although the legal situation has changed more recently, it is this
period that is covered by the study referenced by Callahan. The study, which dates from 1992, was
an anonymous survey of the Dutch physicians who were responsible for ensuring that the
conditions mentioned by the courts were being met. Despite repeated assurances over the preceding
years, the survey found that 50 percent of euthanasia cases went unreported, and that 1/3 were cases
of non-voluntary euthanasia. Callahan finds this shocking and a dramatic illustration of the totally
wrong road that our society can go on. Probably it is worth recalling the observation made by
Tooley here: what matters here is not whether there are undesirable cases of euthanasia in the
Netherlands, but whether there are more such cases than when compared to countries that don’t
have legalised euthanasia? After all, just because a practice has not been legalised does not mean it
is not taking place(a lot of examples can be given) Tooley thinks that when the appropriate
comparative exercise is carried out, the results lead us away from Callahan’s pessimistic view of
euthanasia and assisted suicide. At the end of his article Callahan makes an interesting observation.
After examining evidences from Oregon (which also had a form of legalised euthanasia) he notes
that very few people actually voluntarily took advantage of euthanasia. In practice, those who suffer
from painful and terminal illnesses tend to make the decision of taking palliative care, no matter
how devastating their lives have become. Given the concerns he has already expressed, Callahan
thinks there is no good reason to legalise euthanasia simply to serve for the needs of some minority.
It can be seen that euthanasia is indeed a contentious issue, with the heart of the debate lying at
active voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Its legal status, prohibition and
criminalisation of the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide reflects the legal status quo and the
human rights that are present in most other countries around the world. In contrast, there are only a
few countries and states that have legalised acts of euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. The many
arguments that have been put forward for and against euthanasia, and the handful that have been
outlined provide only a very small drop into the ethical debate and controversy surrounding the
topic of euthanasia. At the end we can mention the special relation between the doctor and the
patient and the role of the physician. The most common opinion on this relationships is that active
voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide undermine the doctor-patient relationship,
destroying the trust and the confidence and of course breaks the moral code. From the Hippocratic
Oath we know that a doctor’s role is to help and save lives, not end them. But it is also true that
doctors should always do what is the best for the patient, and in many cases the best thing in one
patient`s “evolution” is to end their life. My personal opinion is that it is not worth living anymore
if a person is not capable of remembering the name and faces of their relatives, if it is not capable of
breathing by their own, if it is not capable of enjoying the gifts of nature, etc. So it is better to have
a short but complete – eventful and satisfactory life, than to prolongate the death for years and to
feel alive at all. Or to put it in other words, it is better when a person die, his or her love ones to
suffer and weep than to rest that this person is finally gone.