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Euthanasia Ethics

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Euthanasia Euthanasia is defined by the American Medical Association as “the administration of a lethal agent by another person to a patient for the purpose of relieving the patient’s intolerable and incurable suffering” (American Medical Association 2014). Euthanasia is currently illegal in all US states with the exception of Oregon as well as all of Europe aside from the Netherlands. The two concerns typically used to justify this are that life is thought to be precious and we are obligated to prolong it, not take it, as well as the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors to “do no harm”. Though it currently remains illegal, there is an increase of support for euthanasia to be practiced in the US. Before assessing whether or not euthanasia is morally justifiable, there are two conceptual distinctions to be made. One is the concept of voluntary vs. involuntary euthanasia, and the other is active vs. passive euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is chosen by the patient himself or herself, while involuntary is chosen by someone other than the patient. Performing an action that will actively end the patient’s life is defined as active euthanasia, while passive euthanasia is performed by withholding treatment and allowing the person to die naturally. This difference is the basis of James Rachels’ argument in “Active and Passive Euthanasia.” Rachels believes that there is no moral difference between “killing” (active) and “letting-die” (passive). He believes that passive euthanasia defeats the entire purpose of the practice because it takes longer for the patient to die while active euthanasia alleviates suffering as quickly as possible. Therefore, Rachels believes that if euthanasia were morally and/or legally acceptable at all then it should be active. The key claim of Rachels’ argument is that killing is no different than letting-die. The example he poses is the moral…...

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