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Moral Permissibility of Voluntary and Non-voluntary Active Euthanasia

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This paper will focus on discussing the moral arguments that are popular in the field of discussion on voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia. I believe that argument that voluntary active euthanasia and non-voluntary euthanasia is not morally permissible is weak in its defense. This paper has been arranged into the following ways.I will first define the key terms that are often associated with euthanasia debates. Then I will delve into presenting the firm arguments in defense of the moral permissibility of voluntary active euthanasia. Last but not least, I will present counter-argument to each.

Euthanasia has always been one of the most controversial concepts to discuss, yet it is tremendously potent in both medical and public forum. There is no better time to discuss the issue of euthanasia than now because of the technological advancements and emergence of new technology in a medical industry that permit human with longer life expectancy. Alongside the technological advancements is the shift in physicians thinking in should they dedicate to keep their patients alive using the advantage of technology. While I think it is absolutely logical and reasonable to think in such manner, I consider that the states of which these patents are in is not a representation of good life and we should shift our focus from how king the patients will live to how well these patients live. Euthanasia, as a tool and method that focus on the living quality of patients should be made as a viable option. To examine the permissibility of euthanasia, I will define some medical terms and conditions that are often associated with the discussion of euthanasia.

Active euthanasia is a form of euthanasia where a lethal dose of medication is given to the patients to end life in a timely manner. Voluntary active euthanasia is intentional administering medication to cause patients death at the request and with full and informed consent. Non-voluntary euthanasia, on the contrary, is often performed when the explicit consent of patients is not available such as when a patient is in a persistent vegetative state or coma. The persistent vegetative state is referred to a medical condition of which a patient who has received severe cerebral damage and has been in a chronic state of unconsciousness for a minimum of four weeks (Martin, 2010, s.v. persistent vegetative state). Such condition could be the result of stroke, disease, infection or numerous other causes. In this state, patients experience extremely limited wakefulness, minimum groaning and eye or bodily movements. Limited wakefulness refers to patterns in sleep which a patient of such state may appear to be awake, but possess minimum consciousness. Coma is a medical condition where a patient has received severe trauma to the cerebrum, resulting from stroke, a disease like the persistent vegetative I stat, resulting in a sustained state of unconsciousness.

Since the nature of the occupation of doctors is inherently different due to a large amount of training, they own a moral, legal and professional duty to maintain some ethical standards. Laws should reflect morals, and we should then be able to find some documentation within medicine to reflect these legal guides. One has been popular is the Hippocratic Oath, written by Hippocrates in ancient Greece. It is now prevalent and recited by medical school students I western society upon finishing school and training. Such an oath is a standard to promise to practice a certain ethical standard of care and practice. Despite it’s not legally binding, it has been regarded as a tool to gu de professional behavior and duties. Because its creation was in ancient Greece, its been rewritten for several time throughout the years with fundamental changes. With more changes to occur in recent years, each medical school has its own version or not one at all. Such creates ambiguity in doing the practice of euthanasia. Hence, the Hippocratic Oath does not provide a clear guideline for the morality of euthanasia. Biomedical is a field in applied ethics that concerned with bi medical research, medic e and health care. They have four main principle for patient care – respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence.

Beneficence. And justice (Beauchamp, 2014). Patient autonomy is crucial. A performance against patients will never be performed. Informing the patients and receiving consents after is necessary. Nonmaleficence is the rule of abstaining from causing harm to others. Under this rule, the practitioner follows the concept such as “ do not kill or cause suffering “. These rules however, are not followed absolutely as a certain amount of pain is necessary to generate reach the desired outcome. Beneficence refers to actions which will positively contribute to patients welfare. There ought to be some kinds of benefits archived by any procedure to be considered responsible. Justice accentuates on equality and fairness, but the type of justice utilized in medicine is unresolved. In comparison to the Hippocratic Oath, the forementioned bioethical principles may seem to be better in guidance, but they are insufficient. For example, nonmaleficence could be overruled in many instances in order to achieve optimal results. Hence, causing harm to a patient by either voluntary and non-voluntary active euthanasia in an aim to bring a more desirable outcome. The concept of beneficence might be in favor of euthanasia if the patient himself believes that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Patient autonomy does not necessarily mean that doctors should act upon patients request. As the result, this principle cannot provide health practitioner a clear course of action. Since neither hypocritical Oath nor bioethical principles are able to provide unified guidance, the examination outside of medicine to philosophy by to judge 5he permissibility of euthanasia is necessary.

The ultimate reason for the close examination of the permissibility of euthanasia is to allow more options in health care for individuals using the idea customization. Currently, euthanasia is deemed legal in Canada. I believe that this will result in more options and benefaction for Canadian patients. In this section I will examine the arguments that put forward that claim active euthanasia is morally not permissible or worse than passive euthanasia. The fact is that voluntary and non-voluntary active euthanasia and passive euthanasia is fundamentally different. The former is death administered intentionally while the later is death from whatever condition the patient is suffering from. However, I question such facts are enough to constitute a moral permissibility difference. Because that the intention of both passive and active euthanasia is both in results, the proof for such permissibility falls on the supports of each. The first argument is the distinction between killing and letting die, second being the doctrine of double effect and the third being the patient rights.

The doctrine of double effect (DDE) refers to “the moral significance of the distinction between intending harm and bringing about harm as a foreseen but unintended side effect of one’s action” (FitzPatrick,2012, p183). However, there are some constraints to DDE. There is a permissibility constraint that “the fact that a harm was brought about as a merely foreseen side effect of pursuing a good end does not, all by itself, show that it was brought about permissibly”(Mclntyre, 2001, p.221). The showing of this is to rule out objections to DDE do not grasp the concept, such as the objection claiming that DDE has the ability to interpret the doing of somebody acting rightly for incorrect reasons or acting disproportion to a situation. As for the second argument. Supporters utilize the claim that performing an action that results in the death of a person mortally worse. Such is an appeal to show that killing is morally worse than letting die due to the causation of the situation that leads to death. These supporters could either choose to commit to saying that killing is also morally impermissible and letting someone die may be permissible in some situation. Or that in some circumstances both killing and letting die maybe permissible euthanasia is not permissible to kill but not always impermissible to let die. The last option cannot be switched to be used because then it would not be an argument to that claim active euthanasia was impérissable. As for the other two cases, the claim would be that killing is always impermissible because if it allowed for active euthanasia to be permissive in some cases, it would have to be allowed in medicine. Therefore, a health practitioner who actively euthanizes a patient is acting impermissibly as he is the direct cause of death. The argument against active euthanasia is the killing is morally worse than letting die. And especially in the field of medicine, killing is impermissible but letting someone die is permissible is one case. We need to remember that the word euthanasia is ted from the desire to relieve pain and suffering. Imagining a euthanasia case where a patient is already in pain and suffering but doctors use life support machines to keep him alive. In this case, it can be considered as moral to pull the plug.

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Moral Permissibility of Voluntary and Non-Voluntary Active Euthanasia. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 2, 2022, from
“Moral Permissibility of Voluntary and Non-Voluntary Active Euthanasia.” GradesFixer, 10 Apr. 2019,
Moral Permissibility of Voluntary and Non-Voluntary Active Euthanasia. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Jul. 2022].
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