Chapter 10 : Care of the Dying

READING:

No real Distinction : The Crucial Element is Intention

http://www.cariboo.bc.ca/ae/php/phil/mclaughl/students/phil433/rachels1.htm

http://www.cariboo.bc.ca/ae/php/phil/mclaughl/students/phil433/rachels2.htm

http://www.cariboo.bc.ca/ae/php/phil/mclaughl/students/phil433/rachels3.htm

http://www.cariboo.bc.ca/ae/php/phil/mclaughl/students/phil433/rachels4.htm

Outline by  Don Berkich,  University of Texas, Corpus Christi (by permission)

Synopsis: Rachels is concerned to show that the AMA's doctrine on euthanasia--that passive euthanasia is morally permissible while active euthanasia is morally impermissible, the so-called Conventional Doctrine on Euthanasia (CDE)--is false. It is important to note that in showing that CDE is false Rachel's is not taking a stand on the moral permissibility or impermissibility of either active or passive euthanasia. Instead, his conclusion is perhaps best expressed as a conditional:

IF passive euthanasia is morally permissible THEN active euthanasia is morally permissible.

Rachel's first two arguments are sound if one is a Utilitarian. But even if one were not a Utilitarian, it seems that Rachels' third argument is inescapably sound. It follows that, indeed, the AMA's policy on euthanasia is seriously misguided, which is just a nice way of saying that it is blatantly false. Behind all this is the safe assumption that morality should drive policy.

The Conventional Doctrine:  CDE

 

 

 

 
1 Passive Euthanasia is morally permissible.

 

 

 

 
2 Active Euthanasia is morally impermissible.

Statement of the AMA:

    The intentional termination of the life of one human being by another--mercy killing--is contrary to that for which the medical profession stands and is contrary to the policy of the American Medical Association.

    The cessation of the employment of extraordinary means to prolong the life of the body when there is irrefutable evidence that biological death is imminent is the decision of the patient and/or his immediate family. The advice and judgement of the physician should be freely available to the patient and/or his immediate family.

Rachels argues in this paper that CDE is false. But when is CDE false?

  1. CDE is true iff passive euthanasia is morally permissible and active euthanasia is morally impermissible.
  2. CDE is false if passive euthanasia is morally impermissible and active euthanasia is morally permissible.
  3. CDE is false if passive euthanasia and active euthanasia are both morally permissible.
  4. CDE is false if passive euthanasia and active euthanasia are both morally impermissible.

Thus Rachels can show that CDE is false by showing that

  1. there are cases in which passive euthanasia is morally impermissible and active euthanasia is morally permissible,
  2. passive euthanasia is morally no better than active euthanasia or, equivalently, active euthanasia is morally no worse than passive euthanasia.
  3. CDE has implications which are false.

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Rachels Arguments Against CDE

Argument A

1

If CDE is true then passive euthanasia never produces more suffering than active euthanasia.
 

 

2

It is not the case that passive euthanasia never produces more suffering than active euthanasia.
 

Therefore

3

CDE is not true.

1&2

Note that if placed in the context of a utilitarian theory, Argument A essentially argues that the CDE is false by showing that there are cases in which passive euthanasia is morally impermissible and active euthanasia is morally permissible,.
 

Argument B

1

If acting in accordance with CDE leads to decisions about passive euthanasia being made on irrelevant grounds, then CDE is false.
 

 

2

Acting in accordance with CDE leads to decisions about passive euthanasia being made on irrelevant grounds.
 

Therefore

3

CDE is false.

1&2

Note that Argument B argues that the CDE is false by showing that it has implications which are false.

Argument C

1

If killing is morally worse than letting die, then for any two cases C1 and C2, where C1 and C2 are exactly alike in all respects except that in C1 there is a killing while in C2 there is a letting die, C1 is morally worse than C2.
 

 

2

It is not the case that for any two cases C1 and C2, where C1 and C2 are exactly alike in all respects except that in C1 there is a killing while in C2 there is a letting die, C1 is morally worse than C2.
 

Therefore

3

It is not the case that killing is morally worse than letting die.

1&2


 

4

If CDE is true then killing is morally worse than letting die.
 

Therefore

5

CDE is not true.

3&4

Note that Argument C argues that CDE is false by showing that passive euthanasia is morally no better than active euthanasia or, equivalently, that active euthanasia is morally no worse than passive euthanasia.

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An unsound Argument against CDE

In order to clinch his case against CDE, Rachels must show that arguments which might be presented in favor of CDE are unsound in addition to giving arguments against CDE. Accordingly, Rachels considers the following argument.


 

1

Active euthanasia is doing something to bring about death.
 

 

2

Passive euthanasia is not doing anything.
 

 

3

Doing something to bring about death is worse than not doing anything.
 

Therefore

4

Active euthanasia is worse than passive euthanasia.

1,2&3


 

5

If active euthanasia is worse than passive euthanasia, then CDE is true.
 

Therefore

6

CDE is true.

4&5

Rachels' response: this argument is unsound!

  • Premise 2 is false. Why?
  • Premise 3 is false. Why?

 

 

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Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2002. All Rights reserved.

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