End of Life Issues

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 17 May 2016

End of Life Issues

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 helping a love one to die” would give a universal law that everyone should be helped to die – a self-contradiction. If you took the maxim “I should help that love one, who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and desperate to die, to die” you might create a more acceptable universal rule such as “Anyone who is terminally and incurably ill, suffering greatly and has freely chosen to die, should be helped to die”( rsrevision ). Also, some may say that deontology may require one to act in a way that seems obviously wrong and unethical. The deontologist maintains that some or all actions are right or wrong in themselves because of the type of action they are whether or not they produce the greater good. This type of view is less easy to systematize than the Consequentiality view. The second ethical theory The Egoist believes that the right action is always that which has the best consequences for the doer of the action, or agent. As with Utilitarianism, there are different versions of this doctrine according to whether the good consequences are seen in terms of maximum pleasure, minimum pain (Hedonistic Egoism) or in terms of other good consequences for the agent, such as his or her self- development or flourishing. At first sight, Hedonistic Egoism seems to prescribe a life spent trampling on anyone who gets in one’s way, and so to be ruled out as contrary to everything that is normally thought of as right. But ever since Plato philosophers have realized that in general human beings cannot maximize pleasure in that way.

Most people are not strong enough to do this with impunity, and in any case most people need friendship and cooperation with others for their own happiness. So Hedonistic Egoism cannot be dismissed quite so hastily. However, occasions would arise where Hedonistic Egoism, like Hedonistic Utilitarianism, demands ruthless action. For example, it would prescribe involuntary euthanasia to a doctor or caregiver who would gain a good deal from someone’s death, did not care enough about the victim to miss him personally and could conceal his deed from anyone who did. Such people, if rational, would not even feel guilty, for they would by their creed have done the right thing. A doctrine which prescribes this, even if on rare occasions, is too much at variance with our ordinary ideas of morality to be persuasive. However, Higher Egoism is another matter. For example, Aristotle’s doctrine is that the right policy in life is not to pursue our own pleasure but to develop our own flourishing or foster our best selves. And the best self is a non-egoistic self, who cultivates the kind of friendship in which friends are second selves and possesses all the moral virtues, including other-regarding ones such as generosity and justice. This kind of Egoism, instead of telling us always to pursue our own welfare, in a sense breaks down the distinction between self and others; we could not readily criticize it on the ground that it was obviously at variance with our ordinary moral views. On the other hand, it is not much use as a guide to action. We first need to know what kinds of action are virtuous in order to cultivate the virtues Aristotle speaks of.

The appeal of the Aristotelian approach today is not as a guide, but as a general framework in which one may set the moral life, and indeed all aspects of life. Aristotle thinks we cannot but pursue our own good as we see it, and perhaps he is right. But he aims to win us to a noble view of that good, in which our own true welfare is to be the best we can be. He lays stress on the distinctive nature of man and on the best life as one in which rational faculties are well exercised. The idea of a death with dignity, one in which these values are preserved, fits well with his outlook (Dr. Elizabeth Telfer, 2013). John’s Stuart Mill Utilitarianism is my third ethical theory that will be discussed here in our focus of euthanasia and whether or not it’s morally acceptable. One would consider when making a decision about euthanasia for an ill family member that according to Mill The utilitarian doctrine is, that happiness is desirable, and the only thing desirable, as an end; all other things being only desirable as means to that end. My interpretation is that in other words, we are to treat others and ourselves as a means to an end, and it would be immoral to use people and ourselves as a mere means. Happiness is something that can be experienced so far as we understand when we are alive. Mill also states that “… there is in reality nothing desired except happiness.

Whatever is desired otherwise than as a means to some end beyond itself, and ultimately to happiness, is desired as itself a part of happiness, and is not desired for itself until it has become so.”Utilitarianism seeks to find an answer to why people behave the way that they do, and according to Mill our actions derive from the pursuit of happiness. I would argue that according to utilitarianism that one does not commit suicide in order to seek happiness as an end. In conclusion, no one wants to be put in a situation where a loved one who’s terminally ill and is in unthinkable pain and therefore, has to makes up his or her mind to end their life through active euthanasia. I used deontology because the approach is very popular form of problem solving in ethical situations and egoism but Utilitarianism because it would give me comfort to know that I’m making the right decision morally for the patient and for selfish reasons. The three ethical theories are clear and easy to understand and frequently non ambiguous; however, right or wrong whether or not end of life decisions will be debated if not it’s morally accepted. I hope after analyzing these theories that I’m able to give comfort to someone that has to consider euthanasia for a loved one but I’m quite sure the debate will continue until as a society we come to accept that your life is your life and yours to do what you wish with it.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 17 May 2016

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