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Euthanasia And Ethics: Kant And Stewart Mill

1269 words - 6 pages

The issue of euthanasia is one surrounded by much controversy. Here we will look at the moral system of Immanuel Kant and John Stewart Mill, the argument for euthanasia, and how each philosopher would respond to that argument. Immanuel Kant and John Stewart Mill have different ethical views therefore they view the issue of Euthanasia differently.
Immanuel Kant holds a deontological, or duty based, ethical view. This means that for something to have moral value it must be done from duty. The basis of this view is the categorical imperative, which Kant explains is to, “Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law” (412). We must be able to universalize the act and have no contradictions in order for it to be morally permissible. Another part of this view is the principle of humanity, which states, “Act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means” (415). An act that uses someone as a means to an end is automatically immoral in Kant’s perspective. This ethical system that is the basis for Kant’s view on Euthanasia is very different from Mill’s.
John Stewart Mill has a much different ethical view that Kant. Mill is a Utilitarian, which in the book is described that, “It claims that the morality of an action is determined by how well it promotes ‘utility’, which is defined as the greatest good for the greatest number” (417). This ethical view measures the morality of an act by what the outcome is. If it promotes the greatest good for the greatest number it is moral. This is also referred to as the greatest happiness principle. Happiness being pleasure and the absence of pain, and unhappiness being the opposite. On this, Mill bases his view about euthanasia.
There are two types of euthanasia: passive euthanasia and active euthanasia. Passive euthanasia (which is legal) is when the patient refuses medication and/or medical treatment and therefore dies from ailment or other natural causes. Active euthanasia (which is only legal in certain areas) is when a certain drug is administered to the patient causing death. In The Case for Euthanasia, by Margaret Battin, she gives her argument on this controversial subject. She states three claims that she believes makes this act moral. First being, the principle of mercy. Battin asserts, “This principle of mercy establishes two component duties: 1. the duty not to cause further pain or suffering; and 2. the duty to end pain or suffering already occurring” (491). We have these duties as part of the principle of mercy. The second claim Battin argues, is the principle of autonomy. This means respecting another person’s rational choice as long as it does not cause undue harm to oneself, to other people, or violate other moral obligations (493). There are many people that come to a point in their life where they are not really living but are still...

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