Appyling ethical theories to medial issues - Euthanasia


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  • Created by: mollie
  • Created on: 12-04-12 12:38


Three Types of Euthanasia;

Voluntary Euthanasia - when a terminally ill person requests death

Involuntary Euthanasia - when a person is killed to save them from more pain, even if they do not request it.

Non Voluntary Euthanasia - when a person is unable to make the request themselves.

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Philippa Foot

Asks the question is there really a moral difference between Killing and allowing to die when they both come to the same consequence - death.

Teleogical theories concentrate on the end - death are not concerned with the means to that end and therefore do not distingush between active and passive euthanasia. Deontological theories however are more concered with the means than the end and do differentiate between the two.

Care or Treatment

In the UK specific treatment may be refused by patients but care by hospital staff must always be given. The courts debate as to whetehr there is a different between care and treatment. For example is feeding through a tube care or treatement?

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Jonathon Glover

Glovers anti euthanasia stance concentrates on the value of life. Uses the example in which there are two planets. on one a signle vegetable grows and on the other there is no sign of life and no form of life can ever be achieved. we must destroy one planet. Those who choose to save the planet with the vegetable recognise that life has intrinsic value.

Some people argue that life is only happy if it leads to something eg happiness or fulfillment.

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Arguments in favour and against euthansia


  • you have the right to life so why shouldnt you have the right to death?
  • Euthanasia may be the kindest or most loving thing to do in a situation
  • You must respexr other peoples desires
  • People are rightfully entitled to a pain free death and a death with dignity.


  • God gave us life as a gift so should we have the right to take it away again?
  • killing in all circumstances is wrong
  • allowing euthanasia only in exceptional circumstances leads to the slippery slope argument - it will eventually lead to the universal application of the right to euthanasia in all circumstances.
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When is a life no longer a life?

It could be argued that a human is a person until they are dead. Euthanasia involves humans who are already dying and are sliding furhter away from being a person. In the case of someone who is totally dependant on life support, shows no responses and is not expected to make any recovery the stages in between this are less clear cut.

Quality of life - assosciated with the debate about personhood. - not jsut freedom from pain but also reatining control over their life and their self respect. Some cases when a person feels they have losr everything that makes their life worthwhile they end their life. Suicide is not illegal. Supporters of euthanasia argue that it should be regarded as assisted suicide and a doctor should be allowed to help a terminally ill patient who feels their life is no longer worth living.

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Dianne Pretty

2002 Dianne Pretty asked the British Courts to allow her to exercise her right to die. The request was refused. she took her case to the European court of human rights.

She wanted her husband to help her die as she was unable to do it herself but she asked that he be immiune from prosecution of murder. Mrs Pretty was suffering from the advanced stages of Motor Neurone disease and feared she would die of choking and asphyxia as her air waves became more blocked. Both courts refused.

She died in a hospice.

Yet in 2009 practically the same scenarious Mrs Debbie Purdy succeeded in her request.

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Slippery Slope

considers relativist solutions to euthanasia. allows individual judgements to be made in each situation. Some might argue that an absolutist ethical code is the only safe approach. a view most countries in the world share. if any form of euthanasia is permitted it would open the floodgates to removing inconvienient members of society. devalue human life.

Abuse of the system

Another reason why people object to legalising euthanasia is because people might abuse the system or feel pressured into asking for death. If voluntary euthanasia were permitted an elderly relative who needed expensive nursing care might feel they ought not to be an emotional and financial burkder on their and family and request death. Also possible that unscupulous family members with their sights on a large inheritance might put pressure of their elderly relatives to request euthanasia.

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The Right to Die

Wilst aboriotn is predominantly concerned with the right to life euthanasia is concerend with the right to die. Some people argue it is their life, so only they have the right to decide when and how it should end.

A living will

A few people choose to write a living will in which they say exactly what treatment they would like to recieve in the event of them becoming so ill or injured they cannot communicate their wishes. This might include the wish not to be revived if severely brain damaged or not to kept alive by life support once brain dead.

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Right to Life

Not everyone believes that a termilaly ill patient should consider euthanasia as the only opntion. The hospice movement, founded by Cicely Saundaers a christian offers pain control, pallaitive care and dignifired end to a persons natrual life. There is a concern that if euthanasia were legalised it would put pressure on vunerable people such as those who are disabled or elderly to request euthanasia for the sake of their family.

How do people who are unable to speak for themselves make a decison? It could be argued that a disabled baby ought to be permitted to live so that it can exercise its own judgement on the value of its life when it is old enough rather than surrender those rights to others at birth.

Do Doctors have a duty to carry out a patients wishes?

A doctor has to obey a patients request that they recieve no furhter treatment even if the doctor knows that lack of treatement would bring about patients death. However at the start of their medical career doctors swear an oath to heal and not to end life.

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