Active and Passive Euthanasia as a Mercy Killing

Subject: Philosophy
Pages: 4
Words: 916
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Bachelor

Euthanasia from a general perspective is simply defined as mercy killing. In this case, the two divisions of mercy killing recorded as passive and active euthanasia require a vital investigation. Based on this it can be argued that passive euthanasia is at times allowable while active euthanasia is always prohibited. From studies it is indicated that it is allowable in some cases to withhold treatment and let a patient die; but under no circumstances should a doctor take the direct action of killing a patient.

It should be further noted that the deliberate execution of the life of a person by a doctor through euthanasia is opposing the stances and the principles of the ‘American Medical Association’. Nevertheless, the doctor should be readily available to provide any advice and a decision to the patient’s immediate family members; in this case, the patient can not survive the illness. In this case, it can be argued that according to AMA; active euthanasia is prohibited but passive euthanasia is allowable (Munson 205-619).

From the definitions of the two distinctions of euthanasia, it can be deduced that passive euthanasia is the act of withholding drugs to a patient who by no means will survive the ailment after a decision is made by the immediate family members. On the other hand, active euthanasia is the direct injection of lethal drugs, which are meant to terminate the patient’s life quickly than when treatment is withheld (Munson 205-619).

According to James Rachels, a patient should not be actively injected with lethal injections to terminate their life after their immediate family members have agreed, nor should he be let to die by withholding his treatment. On the other hand, from Rachels’s point of view active euthanasia in some circumstances is morally preferable over passive euthanasia. From this, it can be argued that passive euthanasia is not morally right since it is an act that goes against the human right concerning his life by making a patient die of pain.

From his illustrations, both Smith and Jones were morally wrong by killing and letting their children die respectively for personal gain. In this case, passive euthanasia could be carried out for personal gain even though it relieves the patient from terrible pain. Based on this it can be argued that the process of letting people die is also morally wrong; especially when patients are left to starve and die of hunger. According to Rachels, a person should choose for himself whether to be left to die or be killed through lethal injections. In this case, it can be argued that the Rachels stand in banning passive euthanasia under all cases; would contradict the American Medical Association’s position.

This is because the association states that mercy killing is not allowable, but the use of unusual means of sustaining life is allowable. In this case, this suggestion of AMA can be used to mean that; under no circumstances should a patient be injected with lethal vaccinations to terminate his life; but the withholding of treatment is allowable.

On the other hand, Rachels believes that AMA plays a hypocritical role of permitting passive euthanasia and condemning active euthanasia; bearing in mind that both methods are meant to kill. This is because as he stated, there is no difference between letting a person die without doing anything to help; and killing that person. It can further be argued that the AMA played a hypocritical role in letting a patient suffering from a disease he will never recover. In this case, Rachels preferred active euthanasia where the patient is instantly relieved from pain and hospitalization nervousness.

In his example of Smith and Jones, Rachels outlined that both killing and letting die are morally wrong; since both of them lead to the termination of life. In this case, Rachels argued that both processes should not be allowed since one should not kill either directly or indirectly. It can further be said that active euthanasia helps in stopping a patient from suffering since his terminal diseases won’t be treated (Munson 205-619).

It can further be argued that Rachels was right with his notion of passive and active euthanasia as being morally wrong; since both of them result in the killing. It is of importance to note that, no one should take away another person’s life whether directly or indirectly; except when passed by the law. But on the other hand, letting a patient suffer out of a terminal disease would not be right; hence relieving one’s pain by terminating his life would be advisable (Munson 205-619).

For instance, a patient suffering from terminal throat cancer; and who is under awful pain and the immediate family members have agreed on his mercy killing; then the patient should be actively mercy killed.

This is because; withholding treatment will not do him any good as far as his pain is considered; since he may take a longer period before dying than expected. Based on this by terminating his life actively, he will be relieved of his pain since the process of being left to die could be comparatively sluggish and painful. On the other hand, the process of injecting him with a deadly injection is comparatively fast and painless. It can further be agreed upon that; as Rachels indicated that the patient’s life should not be intentionally terminated; but rather shortening his suffering days be done (Munson 205-619).

Work cited

Munson, Ronald. “Intervention and Reflection”, 8th edition. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company. (2007): P. 205-619.