Title: The Ethical Debate on Euthanasia: Analysis of Positions and Application of Moral Theories
This assignment aims to explore a topic of moral controversy, euthanasia, and analyze the positions of each side in the ethical debate surrounding it. Additionally, the assignment requires an evaluation of these positions using the moral theories covered in the course. Furthermore, it necessitates referencing and discussing any relevant professional code of ethics pertaining to the topic, highlighting potential conflicts between professional and familial duties.
1. Positions of the Ethical Debate on Euthanasia:
Euthanasia, the intentional termination of a person’s life to relieve suffering, has sparked intense moral debate. The two main positions in this debate are proponents of euthanasia (often referred to as “the right to die” supporters) and opponents who believe in preserving the sanctity of life.
Proponents argue for the legalization of euthanasia, highlighting the following moral reasons to justify their stance:
1.1 Individual Autonomy: Proponents assert that individuals should have the right to control their own bodies and make decisions about their lives, even if it entails hastening death. They argue that it is a fundamental human right to have the autonomy to choose the timing and manner of one’s death when faced with unbearable suffering.
1.2 Mercy and Compassion: Supporters of euthanasia emphasize the importance of relieving the pain and suffering of terminally ill individuals. They argue that euthanasia provides a compassionate choice for those facing excruciating physical or psychological distress, allowing them to die with dignity and minimal suffering.
Opponents of euthanasia, on the other hand, hold the following moral reasons as the basis for their perspective:
1.3 Sanctity of Life: Opponents maintain that all human lives are intrinsically valuable and should be protected, irrespective of the circumstances. They argue that intentionally ending a life, even with consent, is a violation of the sanctity of life principle, which prohibits any deliberate harm to individuals.
1.4 Slippery Slope Argument: Critics contend that legalizing euthanasia may lead to further moral complications and potential abuses. They suggest that once euthanasia becomes permissible, the line between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia may blur, creating a situation where vulnerable individuals may be subjected to unjust termination of their lives.
2. Evaluation Using Moral Theories:
The positions of the euthanasia debate can be assessed through the lens of various moral theories studied in this course. By examining the positions of proponents and opponents, the following theories can provide analytical frameworks for evaluation:
2.1 Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism assesses actions based on their overall consequences, aiming to maximize the overall happiness or well-being of individuals. Proponents of euthanasia could argue that it maximizes the happiness of individuals by alleviating their suffering. On the other hand, opponents might argue that the potential harms and long-term consequences outweigh the happiness obtained from euthanasia, thus opposing its legalization.
2.2 Deontology: Deontological ethics focus on the inherent rightness or wrongness of actions, independent of their consequences. Proponents of euthanasia could argue that it aligns with principles of autonomy, respecting individuals’ rights to make decisions about their lives. Opponents, however, might argue that the principle of preserving the sanctity of life takes precedence over individual autonomy, rendering euthanasia morally impermissible.
2.3 Virtue Ethics: Virtue ethics considers the character of individuals and emphasizes the cultivation of moral virtues. The debate on euthanasia could be evaluated through this theory by analyzing whether practicing euthanasia aligns with virtues like compassion, empathy, or respect for the sanctity of life.
2.4 Rights-Based Ethical Theories: Rights-based ethical theories examine moral obligations based on the notion of inherent rights possessed by individuals. Proponents of euthanasia might argue that individuals have a right to die with dignity, while opponents might uphold the inherent right to life as overriding any such claim.
3. Professional Codes of Ethics and Conflicts between Professional and Familial Duties:
When examining euthanasia, it is essential to consider relevant professional codes of ethics and potential conflicts between professional and familial duties. In the case of doctors, the American Medical Association (AMA) code of ethics is highly pertinent. The AMA code emphasizes the commitment to preserving life, but it also recognizes the importance of respecting the autonomy and dignity of patients. Discussions on euthanasia within the medical profession often involve navigating these conflicting duties and determining the appropriate course of action regarding end-of-life decisions.
In conclusion, the ethical debate surrounding euthanasia involves supporters arguing for individual autonomy and compassion, while opponents emphasize the sanctity of life and potential moral implications. Evaluating these positions using moral theories such as utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, and rights-based ethical theories provides a structured framework. Additionally, considering relevant professional codes of ethics, such as the AMA code for doctors, allows for deeper analysis of potential conflicts between professional duties and familial obligations in the context of euthanasia.