Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Euthanasia By Nadine and Alyssa

Throughout the past few week in class we have been discussing morals and philosophers views on ethics. While diving into an exploration of some ethical issues one stood out for us, that topic being Euthanasia. Euthanasia is the intentional killing of another person as requested by them as they may be facing terminal, painful illness and would rather end their lives immediately than fade away slowly and painfully with time. There are different types of Euthanasia.

  • Voluntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed has requested to be killed.
  • Non-voluntary: When the person who is killed made no request and gave no consent.
  • Involuntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed expressed a wish to the contrary.
  • Assisted suicide: Someone provides an individual with the information, guidance, and means to take his or her own life with the intention that they will be used for this purpose. When it is a doctor who helps another person to kill themselves it is called “physician assisted suicide.”
  • Euthanasia By Action: Intentionally causing a person’s death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection.
  • Euthanasia By Omission: Intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water.

Euthanasia is currently illegal in most of Canada and many other countries around the world. As with all ethical problems, there are two side; for and against. The present law in Canada does not distinguish between euthanasia, assisted suicide and other forms of murder.  The key consideration is the intention to cause death.  Consent or motive – even one of compassion – does not change the reality of killing a human being.

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People who are against Euthanasia are just that for a multitude of reasons.

Many believe that allowing Euthanasia to become a legal norm would weaken society’s value for human life. People with disabilities and illness may soon be viewed as burdens to society as they have the option to die sooner and no longer use up our hospital’s resources and space, a view that would negatively impact the mental health of millions of patients. Every human being has the right to be valued equally in society. By legalizing Euthanasia some may develop the mindset that the weak should simply be disposed of, a view that is detrimental to the equality of our society. Human life should not be a means to an end, it is a good in itself and should be treated as such.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that rational human beings should be treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to something else. The fact that we are human has value in itself. Our inherent value doesn’t depend on anything else – it doesn’t depend on whether we are having a good life that we enjoy, or whether we are making other people’s lives better. We exist, so we have value. It applies to us too as we shouldn’t treat ourselves as a means to our own ends meaning that lives should not be taken for the sole reason that it seems like the most effective way to alleviate suffering. To do that, through the eyes of this moral argument, would be to disregard people’s inherent worth. This view is known as the Slippery slope argument, the idea that allowing something seemingly harmless to happen may enable it to eventually spiral and escalate to allowing more worse things, currently unthinkable things, to become the norm. If Euthanasia were to be legalized and made a norm, many believe that vulnerable people will be put under pressure to end their lives. It would be difficult, and possibly impossible, to stop people using persuasion or coercion to get people to request euthanasia when they don’t really want it.

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Euthanasia is usually viewed from the viewpoint of the person who wants to die, but it affects other people too, and their rights should be considered.

  • family and friends
  • medical and other careers
  • other people in a similar situation who may feel pressured by the decision of this patient
  • society’s balance in general

To outline each and every argument against Euthanasia out there would make for a monstrous blog post, so instead here are some of the most common arguments against Euthanasia in point form:

  •  Voluntary euthanasia is the start of a slippery slope that leads to involuntary euthanasia and the killing of people who are thought undesirable
  • Proper palliative care makes euthanasia unnecessary
  • There’s no way of properly regulating euthanasia
  • Allowing euthanasia will lead to less good care for the terminally ill
  • Allowing euthanasia undermines the commitment of doctors and nurses to saving lives
  • Allowing euthanasia will discourage the search for new cures and treatments for the terminally ill
  • Euthanasia undermines the motivation to provide good care for the dying, and good pain relief
  • Euthanasia exposes vulnerable people to pressure to end their lives
  • Moral pressure on elderly relatives by selfish families
  • Moral pressure to free up medical resources
  • Patients who are abandoned by their families may feel euthanasia is the only solution

In contrast, there are many who believe that Euthanasia is something that should be made legal for all people. There are a few different moral approaches that have come to this conclusion.

Protesters

Consequentialism & Utilitarianism would focus on looking at the consequence of the affected people of the situation. John Stuart Mill said in his famous essay that

“good consequences are simply happiness, and happiness is pleasure and freedom from pain – not only physical pain but also distress of other kinds.”

The idea of this explains that there is the possibility of producing most pleasure and the least pain for everyone involved. Mills also stated

“ good consequences depend not only on the quantity of pleasure but also on the quality of the experiences which produce it and of the human being which is developed by them.”

According to this, the right action is something that promotes in oneself and others in a higher happiness.

Another approach to this issue would be Deontology, the idea that some or all actions are right or wrong in themselves because of the type of actions that they are. In this article by Elizabeth Telfer, she explains this concept by stating:

“Examples of these would be John Locke in the seventeenth century, Richard Price in the eighteenth century and David Ross and H. A. Prichard in the twentieth. Some Deontological philosophers speak in terms of duties, others of rights, but for our purposes they may be grouped together. However, we need to distinguish between two kinds of rights. Some rights, commonly called negative rights, are rights not to be treated in certain ways, and there are corresponding duties not to treat the owners of these rights in these ways. Other rights are positive rights to receive goods or services. Other people may have a duty to provide these, though it tends to be difficult to decide exactly who, as with such rights as the right to work.

There are two negative rights, found in most lists, which are particularly relevant to voluntary euthanasia. These are: the right not to be killed, corresponding to a duty not to kill, and the right to liberty corresponding to a duty to respect others’ liberty. I shall say a little about each of these. The notion of a duty not to kill seems at first to rule out euthanasia of any kind, and those who oppose euthanasia sometimes seem to think that all they need to do is to say ‘Thou shalt not kill’ in a suitably solemn voice. But we do not regard the prohibition of killing as absolute: we may think there can be justified wars or justified capital punishment, or that killing in self- defense or defense of others is justified. And it is easier to justify voluntary euthanasia than the killing in these other cases, where the person who dies does not choose to do so. If the reason why in general we ought not to kill is that life is a person’s most precious possession, then that reason can be overturned if the person no longer wants to live.”
-Elizabeth Telfer

The Moral theory of Egoism; the belief that the right action is always that which has the best consequences for the doer of the action, or agent, would further find that Euthanasia should be a legal right.Similar to topic one, this is more about how the doer of the action presents itself to something that benefits him/her. Such as a selfish family member that would rather have the money one gets from a fallen family member.Aristotle’s policy in life is not to pursue our own pleasure but to develop our own flourishing or foster our best selves. This however is the opposite of Egoism. One must find and develop a non-egoistic self. Someone who possesses moral virtues, which includes the act of regarding others values. Such as the idea of a death with dignity. Euthanasia lets someone have their values preserved and their better self is seen at the end, rather than a declined better self.

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In general, those who are for Euthanasia believe that legalizing it and making it accessible to the people who are in dire pain would make their better self shine through at the end of their lifespan, would benefit many families and would give them the freedom to control their own lives.

Like many topics in this world, Euthanasia is extremely controversial. As it stands, Euthanasia is illegal in most of Canada, but there are many arguments against it. As is the case of all ethical situations, there are pro’s and con’s, what you believe and which philosopher you agree with is an opinion thats entirely up to you to form.

 

 

 

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Ethics Discussion: Euthanasia, Capital Punishment & Safe Injection Sites 12.06.13

Here is the second Ethics discussion from our unit, concerning the questions of Euthanasia, Capital Punishment & Safe Injection Sites. You can read more about each of these topics on their introductory posts:

 

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Ethics Discussion Schedule & Posts

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 12.46.29 PMAbove you’ll find our rough schedule for discussions on various ethical topics we plan to address in the coming days. In addition to being able to join our class proceedings via #ds106radio, or Google Hangout (stay tuned to the #Philosophy12 hashtag on Twitter or @bryanjack’s account to find links to these talks) beginning at approximately 10:20am (PST) on the days listed, Philosophy 12 invites you to engage in dialogue around these topics on posts coming across the course site as of today.

Here are links and brief excerpts of the ethical issues we are investigating:

I have the Right to Die – Andrea R. and Ramona K.

Immanuel Kant believed that the moral rules can, in principle, be known as a result of reason alone and are not based on observation. He believed that reason can be revealed in the basic principles of morality. These principles are goodwill, duty and categorical imperative. His categorical imperative states that we should act in such a way that we can all will the maxim of our actions to become a universal law. An objective principle, in so far as it is obligatory, is called a command (of reason), and the formula of the command is called an imperative. All imperatives are expressed by the word ought, and indicate the relation of an objective law of reason to a will which is not necessarily determined by it. They say that something would be good to do, but they say it to a will which does not always do a thing because it is conceived to be good. “What makes a moral act right?” And this happens to be what we are looking for, in the sense of what makes euthanasia right?

The Ethics of Voting: Not Efficient, Not Ethical, What’s the Point? – by Aidan C. and Lazar A.

The problem is, that we, as members of a democratic system cannot view voting as an ethical task. It must be an act which is performed at the out-most interest of oneself, so that the leaders of our country can take action as our representatives. We ask, that shouldn’t the very foundation of a democratic system be ethically correct towards its people, since the system itself is made upon ethical views? No, it does not, because the second you begin voting for the wants and needs of those around you, a) you cannot know what they want, and b) which person’s wants and needs do you vote for? For instance, what everyone votes for the wants and needs of one person…that does not bring a greater good to the most people either, therefore, once again at an ethical stale mate. Concluding, although unethical, voting is the key to a system which strives to be ethical.

Wikileaks vs. the Government – by Julian P. and Imtiaz P.

“Big brother is always watching you” is a widely used phrase that was written by George Orwell, to emphasize an omnipresent, seemingly benevolent figure that represents oppressive control of individual lives, who is absent in the believe of morals and or ethics…

Online Piracy – by Dylan A. Cassidy P.

Is piracy actually theft? Technically speaking, theft happens when person A takes something from person B. Person B now does not have that thing which they originally had and person A now has that thing which person B had. Because this object is not being physically stolen from anyone, is it truly considered stolen? This isn’t the case for Internet piracy. When you download something online, you aren’t taking that thing, you’re making a copy of it. The original author hasn’t lost their work, there’s just more of it around now. Now that’s not to say that if the author didn’t originally put their work up for free online that they aren’t getting the money that they asked for, so in that way people would argue that it is stealing. So that’s when online piracy becomes very messy, and we’re stuck in between two sets of views that are both agreeable yet can’t exist together within the current ways that copyright infringement is dealt with.

The Ethics of Animal Experimentation – by Katherine B. and Jessica P.

Mill’s utilitarian ethics would agree to medical animal experimentation, as we see an exponentially greater amount of “good” brought into the world from the harms we committed in order to bring about that good. Animal testing for medical research and drug development also satisfies a higher level of utilitarianism. The “good” (of progression in medical research), brought about by the “harm” (of testing on animals) is being created for an altruistic reason; to benefit and improve the health of all human lives. In contrast to cosmetic animal testing whose purpose is to satisfy debateably superficial wants, scientific animal testing is being used to grant people a higher quality of life.

Ethnics: Get Out! – by Julie, Aman & Emily

…citizens are wondering if multiculturalism is a failed experiment but Habermas disagrees and states that they should continue to embrace multiculturalism and not resort to tactics such as relying on the support of right-wing populists like the Netherlands or having a ban on building minarets like Switzerland. Although xenophobia seems to be spreading in some areas of the world Habermas believes that if we get to know people from other countries and we get to experience their culture, then we will realize that this is the best way to live.

Power: State vs. People – by Jade, Ayden & Deion

Questioning the government seems to be somewhat of a common thing amongst the population. We criticize the amount of power that our state has, yet we do nothing to make a change. The idea of having no control in our own society enrages many of us. If this is a fear that we all have, why don’t we step up and take the power?

Democracy gives us of legal age and registration the ability to vocalize our preference in political leaders. But with the ability to control the majority in government, what do we do with it? Sheep give their trust to their herder in where they choose to guide them. Similarly, people invest their trust in an elected leader. Ironically, people can be lead to ignorant knowledge.

Stay away from the Bacon! – by Heather M. and Kristina S.

Pigs are the 4th smartest animal (excluding humans.) They are only outranked by elephants, dolphins and chimps (and humans.) They learn as quickly as chimps. They can recognize their own name within only a week of being born. Guess how long it takes a human baby.

HALF A YEAR.

And their names are probably called a lot more than these piglets, so consider those implications. They continue exceed the capability of any 3 year old child, and most toddlers speak by then. They are far more intelligent than your cat or dog, too.They can recognize and remember up to 30 other pigs.

Capital Punishment – by Tyler L. and Leon C.

“As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated” said Amnesty International. In 1973, over 140 people had been released from death rows in 26 states because of innocence.  Hugo Bedau, a philosopher, who’s most ambitious work was “The Death Penalty in America” and took up the issue in “The Case Against the Death Penalty” which was a pamphlet distributed widely by the American Civil Liberties Union. He was the first to make general empirical argument against the capital punishment as said by Michael Radelet.

Safe Injection Sites – Ashley A. and Sophie T.

Many argue that providing a place for drug addicts to continue using is logically and ethically wrong, as it is encouraging illegal activity with no legal intervention or consequences. People who oppose these safe injection sites also believe that it isn’t right to enable these people to continue using, rather than helping them decrease the amount of drugs they are taking or getting off of the drugs all together. To some people, giving addicts a place to consume illegal, dangerous intravenous drugs is equal to giving people with chronic depression a place where they can “safely” kill themselves. The only safe place that these people believe that drug addicts belong is in jail and/or a rehabilitation program.

Economics, Inequality & Enlightenment – by Mr. J

…should the goal revolve around creating *enough* social cohesion to bring about greater justice than presently experienced? I was watching another talk hosted by Sandel the other night (about the moral justification for wealth-redistribution) where someone in the audience said that those in favour of redistribution don’t put their best foot forward when they present the “selfish” argument for paying higher taxes: “You will have a better healthcare system if we all pay.” The more powerful argument, this person posited, was that members of a community (family, province, nation… planet?) have an inherent obligation to one another. We are all members of the same family, in other words, and thus taxation for the benefit of all not so much a case of taking from one to give to another, but something we all do for the good of all (which includes each of us).

 

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Euthanasia

What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is considered one of the most controversial issues facing humanity today. Euthanasia is a type of assisted suicide, in other words, where one person helps another person to take their own life. However, the reason for such action occurs where an individual may be facing a very serious debilitating illness that stops them from having a reasonable quality of life, therefore want the action of euthanasia to take place, with the express intention of ending life to relieve persistent suffering.

Ways Euthanasia is performed:

  • Lethal injection
  • Suffocation
  • Removal of the means to sustain life (such as, removal of a patient’s feeding tubes)
  • Euthanasia may be “active” (the person performs on the euthasia recipient the last act that intentionally causes death) or “passive” (withdrawing ordinary means of sustaining life- food, water, medication)

There are two main classifications on euthanasia:

1) Voluntary Euthanasia – Refers to ending life in a “painless” matter
This form of euthanasia is the voluntary decision of a patient, therefore the doctor terminates the patient’s life, in the case that the patient suffers too much, with no hope of recovery, no hope on a reasonable quality of life and in some cases if the patient wishes to do so, to end financial, or the psychological burden it may overtake on their family.

2) Involuntary Euthanasia – Performed without consent of the patient
This form of euthanasia is the involuntary decision made by friends or family of the patient to end the patient’s life.

Ethical key issues/ questions include:

From different point of views, different opinions result. Some individuals view euthanasia as the practice of ending a life in a painless manner, while many others may disagree with this interpretation, as it needs to include a reference to intractable suffering.

Arguments against euthanasia:

1) Religious vs. Non-religious

Religious people generally oppose euthanasia on the grounds that death should not be forced and only god has that decision, therefore people have no right to go against gods will. Euthanasia is considered either a crime if brought up involuntary, or suicide if brought by choice, therefore both result an act of sinning. Non-religious people, on the other hand, oppose it on the grounds that it could open the door to “sanctioned murder.”

2) Euthanasia will become only “voluntary”

Many people believe that once legalized, emotion and psychological pressures could become overpowering to these individuals. Therefore, if euthanasia is considered a good decision to receive care, many people would then feel guilty for not choosing death, and will feel pressured to do so. Many disabled are not ready to die, and wish to continue with their lives, but if euthanasia is legalized, where assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia were available, would they possibly feel it was the responsible thing to do? If legalized, would the concept of having the “right” to die, be seen as a “duty” to die? The effects financially, will also add pressure that would lead a person to “choose” euthanasia as opposed to voluntarily choosing. As a result, many people believed that voluntary euthanasia will lead to involuntary euthanasia.

3) Once legalized, euthanasia will not be used just for those facing serious illnesses, but those who are depressed

Those depressed will most likely participate in voluntary euthanasia, however depression is curable and not living is considered unreasonable for many people. There are plenty of other healthy ways to cure depression, therefore death is not the answer. Many fear that by legalizing euthanasia, it will open the door to majority of depressed individuals.

4) Euthanasia is a rejection of the value and importance of one’s life.
“With euthanasia no one’s life is being saved – life is only taken.”

Arguments for euthanasia

1) By not allowing someone to make that decision of one’s life, we are taking away a right that contradicts with freedom, doesn’t everyone have the right to make decisions of one’s life?

Many people argue that deciding whether to end one’s life for any reason should be of choice. It should be a legal decision to do so and for their mind alone.it gives a freedom of choice for the individual, and allows the individual to get away from the pain, either physically, and emotionally that they are currently facing.

2) Making euthanasia legal is far more cost effective

Many argue that financially, making euthanasia is a lot more cost effective than having to take care of the person for as long as they live for, and it frees up medical funds to help other people as well. Medications and medical treatment are expensive, why should people who don’t want to live be provided with the treatment?

My opinion:

I think that Euthanasia should be legal but only to those facing extremely horrible circumstances physically due to any sort of medical condition. I believe if the individual is physically unable to do certain things, and if they really don’t want to continue living there life the way it is, they should be given the choice whether to live or not regardless. In my opinion, unbearable pain both physically and emotionally isn’t a way of living. As I mentioned previously as well, financially, making euthanasia legal is far more cost effective than having to take care of the person for as long as they live for and frees up medical funds to help other people as well. Medications and medical treatment are expensive and by providing it to those who don’t want to live, in my opinion, doesn’t seem reasonable.

Past philosophers:

Past philosophers, such as John Locke, and Immanuel Kant, opposed suicide, therefore euthanasia was considered suicide, regardless how much the individual may be struggling. Locke argued that life itself is a gift that represents an inalienable right, which shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Immanuel Kant

One of Immanuel Kant’s quote states his belief that connects to euthanasia: “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” Therefore, when injecting patients in the act of euthanasia, you must be willing for that to become a universal law so that everybody can do it including your own self. He also argued that we should do moral things out of duty. You must feel that doing euthanasia is the right thing to do out of rational duty, as opposed to some emotional reason or other passion.

Overall, Kant believed that us being humans has huge value itself. Our inherent value doesn’t depend on anything else, regardless having a good life we enjoy or not. The fact that we exist, has enough value itself, meaning we shouldn’t end our lives just because it may seem necessary. Suicide was considered an example of an action that violates moral responsibility in Kant’s eyes. He strictly believed that the proper end of rational beings requires self preservation, therefore suicide would be inconsistent with the fundamental value of human life. As a result, philosopher Kant believed that regardless the situation an individual may be suffering, euthanasia is wrong.

 
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