In the previous chapter,
clarification of the practice that we call euthanasia had already been made.
The aim of this portion is to organize all the related literature and studies
that contains arguments about the topic of this research. Different positions
on the said topic will be portrayed accordingly. We would also flaunt the
concerns of philosophers about euthanasia
Mark Vuletic on the other hand, who has different degrees in
Philosophy, summarized Mill’s On Liberty on one of his works. Vuletic put into
his words that Mill asserts that all beings should be allowed to freely express
their views including those which are universally rejected and reviled.1 On
this view, autonomous choices often lead to desirable consequences. Mill
advocated the principle of autonomy which is a principle that does not harm
others, harm principle. Following utilitarianism, Mill’s works are greatly
affected. In the book, On Liberty, his description of autonomy always come
along to a conclusion that:
choices are not to be respected merely because they are autonomous or because
those making them have a capacity for self-determination but rather because
doing so will lead to the most beneficial prudential results.2
Findings of the Scholars
As we all know, death became a topic
of great interest since then. Noted philosophers dealt with this one, resulting
them to be involved in dealing with euthanasia. Although some philosophers did
not directly put up their ideas about this certain issue, their literature and
other works still correlate to euthanasia. Considering all the literature and
studies concerning this, opposing opinions about euthanasia had been presented
Reviewing the medical ethics during those
times, Jennifer M. Scherer and Rita J. Simon wrote that Aristotle and Plato
rejected the idea of suicide. As a matter of fact, in early times, suicide had
been labeled as an offense against the state, the reason why it brings dishonor
to the family of the one who committed it and also why the right hand of the
deceased is buried separately from the body.1
Meanwhile, the writers of an article, Euthanasia and Suicide in Antiquity, enumerated
the things which prove that philosophers always seem to be dealing with death.
Written in there, Plato implies that he is against active euthanasia. In his
book, Laws, he stated that the
termination of life made by doctors as they administer a drug directly to a
patient should result in a punishment. A punishment resulting their own death.
The Eudemian Ethics IV of Aristotle
also states that pursuing death (suicide) only symbolizes weakness and
Even though Aristotle and Plato rejected the idea of suicide, they supported
euthanasia if there are cases of terminal or incurable diseases.3 Plato stated in his work, Republic, that patients who are not
currently being able to live a normal life because of all the sufferings,
should not receive any treatment of prolongation of life.4
Several dramatists depict the concept
of euthanasia through their dramas. As a proof, a line from Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound depicts that it was
better to die than to continue living in anguish. One of the plays of Sophocles
which is The Women of Trachis, also
portray a scene wherein the protagonist asked his son to end his life. He told
that the act would not make his son a murderer, but instead, a healer of his
sufferings. Lastly, Hippocrates’ The Art conveyed
that treatments to incurable diseases should not be administered, he said that
to show us that we should realize the powerlessness of medicine in some
As reviewing the literature and works
of philosophers, we had noticed that most of them support passive euthanasia
and opposes the active one. But is there any moral difference between the two?
Response to the
Euthanasia is a choice, a privilege available only
for those who are willing to commit, outside factors, don’t have the right to
interfere other than their doctors and those who are willing to help them. We
have the right to advise them against it and urge them not to do it, but in the
end, it’s their decision and not ours.
John Stuart Mill’s Principle or “The Mill Principle”
the author calls it, first states that we cannot force a person to conform to
our ideas of right and wrong so long as the person is not harming others and
second, we cannot interfere with their actions, which they think it’s for their
own good. So if a person who has terminal illness wishes for Euthanasia rather
than continue to be in pain, then they have the right to do so.7
Regarding cases of mercy killings, a
lot of people who were caught enacting the said case, most of them were proven
not guilty, due to the fact that most victims wished for it to happen or unable
to live life as a normal human being because of their illness or disabilities.
The Perpetrators called it as an act love, seeing their loved ones suffer is
too much for them bear so they made the choice of killing their own to relieve
them from their unbearable pain.8
It’s been said the legalizing
Euthanasia is impossible not because of its purpose but about devising any laws
to accommodate euthanasia, there must be a specific legal procedure that one
supports. Both pro-euthanasia organizations, The British Euthanasia Society and
The Euthanasia Society of America suggested their own procedures but both were
cumbersome and offer little comfort to those who will undergo euthanasia.9
James Rachel suggested a proposal concerning
how euthanasia might be legalized that is different from the two pro-euthanasia
organizations. That a plea of mercy-killing be acceptable as a defense against
a charge of homicide in much the same way that a plea of self-defense is acceptable.
In other words, anyone considering mercy-killing would have to be very sure of
that there is evidence to confirm the patient’s condition and desire to die.10 Under
this proposal, the problems of conceiving procedures do not arise. We just need to rely on the judges and juries’
good sense on separating the cases of justifiable euthanasia and unjustifiable
Slippery Slope in the Judgment
As stated by D. Benatar, doctors who are willing to
end a life or to help someone to end his/her life is an inexpressible violation
of someone’s freedom. On the other hand, slippery slope effect is used to claim
the acceptance of physician-assisted suicide. The slippery slope is a part of
logical fallacies. A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning that invalidates
if we use the slippery slope to judge this argument the result will not have a
strong foundation because again, the slippery slope is a part of logical
fallacies that usually leads to a negative effect.
Between Good or Bad
Euthanasia may be the solution we
all need. It might be viewed in a negative light but like all things, it has
some positives to it. It is misunderstood yet it holds the potential to solve
Thornton a Roman Catholic priest showed his viewpoint that euthanasia would
lead to involuntary killing by using Nazi Germany or The Third Reich 12 and
Netherlands where Euthanasia was abused, as a means of saying that the
termination of pain and suffering is immoral or unethical and shouldn’t be
legalized, because it will just be abused by those in the higher positions and
solely be used for eliminating people who are a nuisance or a dead weight, in
our ever-expanding society.13
Gerald A. Larue a professor of religion in the
University of Southern California in Los Angeles viewpoint argued that there
will be no abusing of powers from the higher-ups due to the fact the power is
within the masses.14
Euthanasia, a way to relieve society of dead
weights, as James Thornton sees it. Strays from its original motive on
relieving pain and suffering from those who are terminally ill, rather than
letting people voluntarily agree to it, their consent will most likely not be
heeded. Human beings are also at fault for being ignorant of the reprehensible
acts by soft-sounding euphemisms, of names that do not directly strike fear
onto us human and evades precise reflection on the reality of certain
situations. For example, in our modern society, abortion is called “freedom of
choice,” sexual libertinage is dubbed “alternative lifestyles,” and certain
forms of genocide in-slow-motion can be made to seem more acceptable under the
name “family planning.” Such are the mental tricks are used to fool us into
believing it’s something safe to do. Because of this, it’s possible a slippery
slope 15 will occur. But that will only happen if
people have no power over their own nation or are too afraid to speak up.
As long as we have our standards of ethical and
moral behavior then such a thing won’t happen, If Euthanasia is legalized; it
won’t lead to involuntary killing, but rather letting them make the choice of
killing themselves or attain good death 16 as
we call it. The choice is theirs alone and we can’t coerce them into committing
it. And so long as the national ethic endorses the right to life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness for all citizens then Euthanasia will be only used for
its original motive, nothing more nothing less.
Jennifer Scherer and Rita Simon, Euthanasia and the Right to Die ( USA:
Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1999), 2.
John Papadimitrou et al. “Euthanasia and Suicide in Antiquity:
Viewpoint of the Dramatists and Philosophers” in Journal of the Royal
Society of Medicine, Volume 100, 26-27.
Scherer and Simon, Euthanasia and the Right to Die, 2.
4 Papadimitrou et al. “Euthanasia and
Suicide in Antiquity”, 26.
6 John Stuart Mill articulated this principle in
On Liberty, where he argued that, “The only purpose for which power can be
rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his
will, is to prevent harm to others.”
7 James Rachel, The End Of Life: Euthanasia and
Morality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 181.
8 Ibid, 169.
9 Ibid, 183.
10 Ibid, 185.
11 Ibid, 186
Nazi Germany is the common English name for the period in German history
from 1933 to 1945, when Germany was under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler
through the Nazi Party (NSDAP). Under Hitler’s rule, Germany was transformed
into a totalitarian state in which the Nazi Party controlled nearly all aspects
The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich
(“German Reich”) from 1933 to 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich
(“Greater German Reich”) from 1943 to 1945. The period is also known
under the names the Third Reich (Drittes Reich, meaning “Third Realm”
or “Third Empire.
James Torr, Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints (San Diego: Greenhaven
Press, 2000), 116.
A consequentialist logical device in which a party asserts that a
relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in
some significant (usually negative) effect.
The English word euthanasia is derived from the Greek and means,
literally, “good death.” According to its oldest meaning, it signifies merely
the relatively painless, gentle passage of someone from this life to the next,
without necessarily any human inference or intervention. Even in the Christian tradition,
we sometimes hear the term “good death” used in the sense that the departed
person died at peace with himself, with his family, and with God.