Active And Passive Euthanasia Summary

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In “Active and Passive Euthanasia,” author James Rachels argues that active euthanasia is no worse than passive euthanasia and that the American Medical Association (AMA) policy supporting the conventional doctrine is incorrect. He defines both active and passive euthanasia. Rachels then makes four arguments to prove his point: Active euthanasia is a more humane alternative to that of passive; the conventional doctrine allows physicians to end lives on reasons that are completely unrelated; there is no moral difference between killing and letting someone die; and the inaccuracy of the arguments defending the policy. Rachels successfully challenges the distinction between active and passive euthanasia, and explains how the two are just as bad…show more content…
The act of killing someone has a negative connotation, which is why people typically see it as worse than letting someone die. This may come from what people have seen in the past, which Rachels points out may especially come from television and the media. Because of this association with violence, blood, and screaming, many do not see letting someone die on the same level as killing someone and therefore declare killing as being worse. Rachels addresses this objection in his fourth argument. Using the evil cousin scenario, Rachels claims that letting someone die is just as bad as killing someone. The situations both Smith and Jones are portrayed in undoubtedly show that there is no moral difference between killing someone and letting someone die. Smith and Jones killed their cousin in different ways; one way just happened to be more aggressive. That being said, both are at fault for the death of their cousin. In objection to this argument, someone may claim that both Smith and Jones intended to do harm to their cousin for personal gain. This then eliminates the moral reasoning argument, since the actions of both Smith and Jones can be seen as…show more content…
Someone who believes that killing is worse than letting someone die would most likely agree that active euthanasia is worse than passive euthanasia. Essentially, that person would believe that in passive euthanasia, a doctor does nothing, while in active euthanasia, the doctor is at fault for causing death. Rachels states that at the point when a patient is in agony, “death is no greater an evil than the patient’s continued existence” (393). This means that choosing to end the person’s life is no longer seen as “bad” since their continued suffering is a worse option. Rachels then goes on to explain that the reason someone would not want to be the reason someone died does not apply anymore. The person ending the life, in this case a doctor, would be ending the suffering of a patient rather than killing them. In this situation, euthanasia would be helping the patient, and does not seem like the doctor is trying to kill him/her. One may say that active euthanasia is bad because the doctor is killing someone. Active euthanasia is quick and painless, but is still seen as immoral. Passive euthanasia can be slow and tormenting, but is seen as moral since a doctor is not bringing upon death. This, however, is exactly what Rachels is arguing against. Both types of euthanasia ultimately end the person’s life, either quickly or slowly. Rachels uses an example of a patient with a disease

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