The Effects of Euthanasia
The case Wyatt v Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust hinges on the life of Charlotte Wyatt who was born three months prematurely weighing less than a pound with serious heart and lung problems that have resulted in her needing to be hooked up to an oxygen machine indefinitely. The crux of the case is that the doctors (Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust) do not want to resuscitate Charlotte should her body fail and Charlotte’s parents (Wyatt) want her to be resuscitated. The doctors have tried everything to improve Charlotte’s life and have come to the conclusion that her organs are so damaged that she is in constant pain. According to the doctors if her organs were to stop working, reviving her would only continue to keep her in a life full of pain. In addition, there is no chance of her life improving and therefore she would suffer constantly he whole life. They estimate that she will not continue to live beyond her infant years due to her internal damage.
On the other side of the case we have the Wyatt’s who believe that Charlotte deserves every chance to live. When the case first went to the high courts in October 2003 she was unresponsive. However, contrary to what the doctors expected, she survived the winter and her parents report signs of improvement. Charlotte is not only able to make facial expressions such as smiling, but she also has limited hearing and she is able to reach out to people and touch them with her hands.
The examination of this case must be a philosophical examination. In order to derive an answer from the information at hand the courts must consider what this case stands for from a philosophical standpoint. There are two basic points that they must consider. The first is sanctity of life. This means that it must be considered whether or not Charlotte’s life is still sacred enough to be fought for or is she already too far gone. The second is quality of life. This refers to how the patient’s life is compared to the life of a normal healthy human. The courts need to decide whether she is in too much pain or if the circumstances of her life are bearable. In order for the courts to make an informed correct decision they must answer these too questions.
The first thing to note is that nobody is arguing for active euthanasia, this case does not involve removing her from life support or doing anything to compromise the current state she is in. The doctors would be refusing treatment after Charlotte was technically dead. This calls us to consider the debate on the morality difference and legality between passive and active euthanasia. Active euthanasia, which is illegal and equated with murder, is the act of deliberately bringing about the death of a patient. Passive euthanasia on the other hand is legal as it is the intentional withholding of treatment that could prevent death. The end result in these is the same and the intent behind each is the same which is why many, including philosopher James Rachels,...