Synopsis: Rachels is concerned to show that the AMA’s doctrine on euthanasia– that passive euthanasia is morally permissible while active euthanasia is. The moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia, or between “killing ” and The philosopher James Rachels has an argument that shows that the. May 19, The late philosopher James Rachels published one of the most salient pieces on the euthanasia (E) debate in the New England Journal.

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But in such a case, Rachels argues, the more humane thing to do is to painlessly kill the patient, to perform active euthanasia. If we accept that active euthanasia is wrong, then we accept as a universal rule that people should be permitted to suffer severe pain before death if that is the consequence of their disease. But even if one were not a Utilitarian, it seems that Rachels’ third argument is inescapably sound.

In this case letting someone die is morally very bad indeed. If the child had not been born with the defect, however, it would have been allowed to live. In either case, the matter is being decided on irrelevant grounds.

One well-known ethical principle says that we should only be guided by moral principles that we would accept should be followed by everyone.

To accept this argument we have to agree that the best action is pzssive the which causes the greatest happiness or perhaps the least unhappiness for the patient and perhaps for the patient’s relatives and carers too. Rachels denies that killing is intrinsically that is, in itself worse than letting die.

Active and passive euthanasia.

A asks his doctor to end it all. Active euthanasia is doing something to bring about death. While the child is taking a bath one evening, Smith sneaks into the bathroom and drowns him. We can look at this situation is another way: And if the lazy doctor defended himself to Rachesl mother by saying, “I didn’t kill him.


Arthur Hugh Clough If the doctor agrees, she has two choices about what to do: Therefore 3 CDE is not true. Therefore 3 CDE is false. It holds that it is sometimes permissible to withhold treatment, but it is never permissible to directly kill patients. James Rachels, ‘Active and Passive Euthanasia’. First argument against the conventional doctrine is that many cases of “letting die” are WORSE for the patient than is killing them.

Active euthanasia reduces the euthsnasia amount of pain A suffers, and so active euthanasia should be preferred in this case. His goal is to challenge the distinction. In certain situations, passive euthanasia “letting die” is morally permissible. We must allow it to live. But if it has no defect, there is nothing we can do. It is not the case that for any two cases C1 and C2, where C1 and C2 racbels exactly alike in all respects except that in C1 there is a killing while in C2 there is a letting die, C1 is morally worse than C2.

Therefore 6 CDE is true. Although most actual cases of killing are morally worse than most actual cases of letting die, we are more familiar with cases of actige especially the terrible ones that are reported in the mediabut we are less familiar with the details of letting die. Care of the Dying. I didn’t kill him; I only let him die. The defects are often quite easy to correct.


The doctrine that it makes an ethical difference whether an agent actively intervenes to bring about a result, or omits to act in circumstances in which it is foreseen that as a result of the omission the same result occurs.

Because, death is typically thought to be evil. Causing death is a great evil if death is a great evil. Of course you can’t. Hence, it is a mistake to think that killing is intrinsically worse than letting die. The humane thing to do is to let the patient die. No-one would think that the doctor’s reply excused him in any way. The doctor stops giving A the drugs that are keeping him alive, but continues pain killers – A dies 3 days later, after having been in pain despite the doctor’s best efforts.


Table of Contents for the Online Textbook. Only rules that apply to everyone can be accepted One well-known ethical principle says that we should only be guided by moral principles that we would accept should be followed by everyone. Jones will gain a large inheritance if his six-year-old cousin dies. If the patient dies as a result of the doctor switching off the respirator then although it’s certainly true that the patient dies from lung cancer or whateverit’s also true that the immediate cause of their death is the switching off of the breathing machine.

The rule that we should treat other people as we would like them to treat us also seems to support euthanasia, if we would want to be put out of our misery if we were in A’s position. But cases in which passive euthanasia seems permissible are cases in which continued existence is regarded as worse than death.

If “letting die” is always immoral, then one might have a sound moral reason to object to active euthanasia, too. Some mostly philosophers go even further and say that active euthanasia is morally better because it can be quicker and cleaner, and xnd may be less painful for the patient.