Active and Passive Euthanasia

In: Social Issues

Submitted By Dexterooski
Words 395
Pages 2
James Rachel argues against the traditional doctrine in medicine that prohibits the physician from taking any action which would contribute to the death of a patient. Rachel takes the position that in some cases, abiding by this doctrine leads to more suffering. In the situation where continued medical support would prolong suffering, doctors have the option of discontinuing support. If, according to Rachel, they choose that option on the basis of reducing suffering then they can do better with active euthanasia. He points out the inconsistency in discontinuing medical support but not going further with active euthanasia, because he sees no moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia, they are both intentional acts to terminate a life. Simply letting someone die is morally the same as killing someone so why is one more acceptable than the other? When a doctor lets a patient die, the doctor is not doing anything. In other words, contrary to how it may seem, doctors are acting by not acting. One is acting in the choice to not do anything. Rachel uses the example of a situation in which a doctor does not treat a patient of a life-threatening illness that is known to be treatable. By withholding treatment, the doctor is actually committing murder, However in a scenario where the illness is terminal withholding treatment is an acceptable practice based on the patient’s wishes. In these scenarios, active euthanasia would seem to be more humane but is not legal or acceptable.
It seems to me that Rachel puts doctors in a situation where they must strictly either be torturers or murderers. In choosing to prolong the patient’s life, the doctor is criticized for prolonging suffering. If it is decided that medical support should no longer be given, the doctor is immediately a murderer. This is supported by Rachel’s’ argument that passive and active euthanasia have…...

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