Euthanasia is, according to Webster dictionary, the act of killing an individual for the reason of mercy. This paper will examen the issue of active and passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is an intervention that would cause death to take place when it would not otherwise happen. Passive euthanasia is the decision to withold help from an individual, ultimately leading to the death of the individual.
This paper is supposed to deal with the circumstances, if any, that euthanasia, active or passive, would be morally permissible. Before I build the wall of moral delineation between these two scenarios, consider that they are but two possible choices on a broad continuum of options about death. I would suggest that there are three hard points on this continuum;
1. Do not allow death if at all possible
2. Do not interfere with death
3. Death is a choice
Under this logic, #1 & #3 define the continuum limits and #2 the center point. I would argue that both active and passive are between #2 and #3. Active is clearly close to #3 while passive still advocates interference with the natural process of death. Passive euthanasia is a choice to allow death when you have the option to prevent it, even in the face of the wishes of the sufferer means that you are exercising a choice about death. So maybe there are really only two hard points to the continuum; #1 and #3? Indeed, even the deciding when to exercise #1 means that you are at #3!
The circumstances in which euthanasia would be morally permissible must therefore be drawn upon #3 of the continuum. The #3 says that death is a choice and that both passive and active euthanasia are choices of death. Death being a choice indicates that a decision must be made. The decision therefore lies in the hands of the patient, because he has a natural right to his life and his body. This right to life is self-evident and universal.
The problem with this argument becomes evident when the patient is not able to present a desicision, whether he is unconscious or has other inabilities of communication or thought processes. Who then, if anybody, should make the decision between intervention preventing death or intervention causing death? Consent then, is the issue that I will base the moral permissibility of euthanasia on. Should euthanasia be morally okay with consent, without consent, both, or neither?
First I will argue that euthanasia is morally permissible. Through the continuum, I have concluded that death is a choice. Accepting this viewpoint, you accept that someone should be able to decide to die. Accepting this, then you justify suicide. This argument is not based upon suffering because I have drawn no definition to the acceptable limit of suffering. If suicide is okay, then why not assisted suicide? Remember that just standing idle when you could prevent death is a decision to allow suicide. Arranging an injection with a push button so all the patient has to do is push a button to die would be considered suicide, which is morally acceptable. This would mean that it is acceptable for an individual to die if they were physically capable of doing it themselves. What logic would you deny the same right to those who were mentally competant but physically incapable? A person who is physically incapable of killing themselves must be killed by another if they choose to die. If a person has a right to die and cannot physically kill themselves, than euthanasia is the only way they could excersise their choice to death. If a person wants to die because they are in a unfavorable condition, whether the choice to die is implied by the patient at the present, or by instructions previously given, they have a right to chose to die and their choice should be honored. Therefore I believe that euthanasia with consent in one way or another is morally permissible in most circumstances.
The moral permissibility of euthanasia without consent now must be considered. Everybody has a right to chose to die if they want to. Who is to chose whether a person should die or not when the person cannot make the decision on their