What is euthanasia? The dictionary defines euthanasia as the act of putting to death or allowing to die painlessly, a person or animal from a painful incurable disease. Euthanasia is also known as mercy killing. The word euthanasia comes from the Greek word eu- meaning good and the Greek word thanatos which means death. There are two types of euthanasia: active euthanasia and passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is the practice of ending the life of a person painlessly. While passive euthanasia is the practice of a patient refusing treatment or allowing a patient to die. Many believe that it passive euthanasia is morally acceptable, but active euthanasia is not. They believe it is acceptable to stop treatment and allow the person to act, but that it is not acceptable to purposefully kill a person.
What’s the difference? If a patient has lung cancer and they are at a stage where a ventilator is needed. They patient has the option of accepting or refusing the treatment. The patient could say to take off the ventilator and will eventually die, but it would take longer and would be more painful. It would have been better to have active euthanasia, where the death would have been quicker and painless. The patient wouldn’t have to suffer in agony for so long. The doctor is still taking an action that will cause the patient to die; either it be by stopping the treatment or by a lethal injection. Is there really a difference between action and omission?
However, James Rachels (1975), American philosopher argues that there is no difference between action and omission if the end result is the death of the patient. He shows this by explaining two different situations. In the first situation, Smith will inherit money if his six year old cousin dies. One day, when his cousin is taking a bath, Smith enters the bathroom and drowns the child. In the second situation, Jones will also get a large inheritance if his six year old cousin dies. One day, Jones plans to drown the child to get the inheritance. But, when Jones enters the bathroom, he sees the child fall and hit his head. The child starts to slip face down into the water. Jones does nothing and lets the child drown (pgs.78-80). In both situation, the child dies; the only difference was that Smith murdered the child, while Jones did not try to rescue the child. In the end, the result was acquiring the inheritance and the child’s death. In euthanasia, there is no difference between action and omission.
Euthanasia can be a positive or negative action depending on your point of view. Pro-euthanasia arguments argue that euthanasia can be the end of suffering for terminally ill patients, it gives the choice of dying with dignity, and it can decrease healthcare debt. According to Snyder (2006), “Whenever possible, people should be free to determine their fates by their own autonomous choices, especially in connection with private matters, such as health, that primarily involve one’s...