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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The refusal of treatment to some “defective” newborns, and the eeuthanasia death by dehydration, shows that some cases of letting die are worse than killing.

Active and passive euthanasia

Arthur Hugh Clough 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. Rachels denies that killing is intrinsically that is, in itself worse than letting die. Euthanasia is the putting to death of a patient through the omission or commission of an act.

To accept this argument we have to agree that the best action is one the which causes the greatest happiness or perhaps the least unhappiness for the patient and perhaps for the patient’s relatives and carers too. Active euthanasia is sometimes more humane than passive euthanasia. Causing death is a great evil if death is a great evil.

Some medical people like this idea. Some mostly philosophers go even further and say that active euthanasia is morally better because it can be quicker and cleaner, and it may be less painful for the patient. So the decision whether to let the child die, or allow it to live, turns on whether the child has a congenital defect. Let’s suppose that the reason A wants to die is because he wants to stop suffering pain, and that that’s the reason the doctor is willing to allow euthanasia in each case.


If the child had not been born with the defect, however, it would have been allowed to live. But this still won’t satisfy some people. The person, suffering from terrible ehthanasia that can no longer be alleviated, asks the doctor to end his life. The basis of the conventional doctrine is the distinction between “killing” and “letting die,” together with the assumption that the difference between killing and letting die must, by itself and apart from further consequences, constitute a genuine moral difference.

Therefore, in many cases where it is right to let a patient die, it is also right to practice active euthanasia. The rule that we should treat other people as we would like them to treat us also seems to support euthanasia, if we would want to be put out of our misery if we were in A’s position.

This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Assisted Suicide in Applied Ethics categorize this paper. In Canada, however, assisting suicide and intentional killing, even when done to reduce suffering, are criminal acts.

The philosopher James Rachels has an argument that shows that the distinction between acts and omissions is not as helpful passve it looks. Active euthanasia is morally better because it can be quicker and cleaner, and it may be less painful for the patient. Margaret Otlowski – – Clarendon Press.

BBC – Ethics – Euthanasia: Active and passive euthanasia

Or, if one thinks that it is better that such an infant not live on, what difference does it make that it happens to have an obstructed intestinal tract? O’Neil – – Philosophy 55 Because, death is anr thought to be evil.

A is in great pain, despite high doses of painkilling drugs. Request removal from index. Hence, it is a mistake to think that killing is intrinsically worse than letting die. If This Is My Body …: Return to Theodore Gracyk’s Home Page.


Switching off a respirator requires someone to carry out the action of throwing the switch. Reichenbach – – Bioethics 1 1: Adn would think that the doctor’s reply excused him in any way. Just as Jones enters the bathroom, however, the child slips, hits his head, and falls face down in the water.

James Rachels’ “Active and Passive Euthanasia”

Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so. It holds that it is sometimes permissible to withhold treatment, but it is never permissible to directly kill patients. British Broadcasting Corporation Home.

If we accept that active euthanasia is wrong, then we accept as a universal rule that people should be permitted to suffer severe pain before death if that is the consequence of their disease.

James Rachels has offered some other arguments that work differently. Aaron Rizzieri – – Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 9 2: Is there a real difference? The Case of Jones. Active and Passive Euthanasia.

In situations for which passive euthanasia is permissible under this justification, there are no morally sound reason for prohibiting active euthanasia, and in some cases, active euthanasia is morally preferable to passive euthanasia.

I didn’t do anything except just stand there and watch the child drown. The dagger in his heart killed him,” we wouldn’t think this an adequate apssive argument either.

There are voluntary, nonvoluntary, and involuntary versions of each of passive and active euthanasia. As Rachels notes, the AMA takes a similar stand.

If “letting die” is always immoral, then one might have a sound moral reason to object to active euthanasia, too. Jones is delighted at his good fortune, and stands by as the child drowns.