The distinction between active and passive euthanasia is thought to be crucial for medical ethics. The idea is that it is James Rachels. James Rachels. The late philosopher James Rachels published one of the most salient pieces on the euthanasia (E) debate in the New England Journal. The moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia, or between “killing ” and The philosopher James Rachels has an argument that shows that the.

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If “letting die” is always immoral, then one might have a sound moral reason to object to active euthanasia, too. Our goal is to prevent further unnecessary suffering.

Rickless – – Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 1: Consider these two cases:. One well-known ethical principle says that we should only be guided by annd principles that we would accept should be followed by everyone. A will die in about 7 days. The doctor gives A a lethal injection – A becomes unconscious within seconds and dies within an hour. The refusal of treatment to some “defective” newborns, and the subsequent death by dehydration, acgive that some cases of letting die are worse than killing.

Thou shalt not kill but needst not strive, officiously, to keep alive. Here’s a case to consider: Passive euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because the medical professionals either don’t do something necessary to keep the patient alive, eufhanasia when they stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive.


James Rachels, Active and passive euthanasia – PhilPapers

The Case of Smith: The doctor stops giving A the drugs that are keeping him alive, but continues pain killers – A dies 3 days later, after having been in pain despite the doctor’s best efforts.

But what makes the killings worse is not the bare fact that they involve a killing, but other background facts about the cases e. In that case, we might think that the doctor had a good defence against accusations of unethical behaviour. The dagger in his heart killed him,” we wouldn’t think this an adequate moral argument either. But in most cases of right and wrong we do think that intention matters, and if we were asked, we would probably say that Smith was a worse person than Jones, because he intended to kill.

Doctors faced with the problem of an incurable patient who wants to die have often felt it was morally better to withdraw treatment from a patient and let the patient die than to kill the patient perhaps with a lethal injection.

The conventional doctrine would say that it is permissible for the doctor to refrain from further treatment and to allow the patient the die. Three Cheers for Double Effect.

Request removal from index. A Defence of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing. Preferring active to passive euthanasia This section is written from the presumption that there are occasions when euthanasia is morally OK.

But this isn’t necessarily so:. Either way, the patient is dead. Passive euthanasia Passive euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because the medical professionals either don’t do something necessary to keep the patient alive, or when they stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive.


You might argue that we can’t compare the case of a doctor who is trying to do their best for their patient with Smith and Jones who are obvious villains. Not everyone would agree that this is the right way to argue.

Active and passive euthanasia

Return to Course Home Page. Passivve in such a case, Rachels argues, the more humane thing to do is to painlessly kill the patient, to perform active euthanasia. Active and Passive Euthanasia.

We must allow it to live.

But some people think this distinction is nonsense, since stopping treatment is a deliberate act, and so is deciding not to carry out a particular treatment. History of Western Philosophy. But cases in which passive euthanasia seems permissible are cases in which continued existence is regarded as worse than death. According to the doctrine of acts and omissions Smith is morally guiltier than Jones, since he actively killed the child, while Jones just allowed the boy to die.

I didn’t do anything except just stand there and watch the child drown.

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