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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Rachels denies that killing is intrinsically that is, in itself worse than letting die. Passive euthanasia is not doing anything. So the decision whether to let the child die, or allow it to live, turns on whether the child has a congenital defect. Rachels does not want to deny that actual killings are often much worse than actual cases of letting die.

And if the lazy doctor defended himself to Brown’s mother by saying, “I didn’t kill him. Notice that Rachels does not defend active euthanasia killingppassive he never defends the aactive of passive euthanasia.

Doctors faced with the problem of an incurable patient who wants to die have often felt it was morally better to withdraw treatment from a patient and let the patient die than to kill the patient perhaps with a lethal injection. The basis of the conventional doctrine is the distinction between “killing” and “letting die,” together with the assumption that the difference between killing and letting die must, by itself and apart from further consequences, constitute a genuine moral difference.

In law Euthanaaia is guilty of murder and Jones isn’t guilty of anything. Just as Jones enters the bathroom, however, the child slips, hits his head, and falls face down in the water. And this is best achieved not by letting the patient die, but by directly killing him. In this case letting someone die is morally very bad indeed. Religion and Ethics home Religions.

This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Because, death is typically thought to be evil. But in most cases of right and wrong we do think that intention matters, and rrachels we were asked, we euhtanasia probably say that Smith was a worse person than Jones, because he intended to kill.


Causing their death swiftly is a lesser evil than allowing them to live in pain. Jones is delighted at his good fortune, and stands by as the child drowns.

Rachels: “Active and Passive Euthanasia”

In either case, the matter is being decided on irrelevant grounds. Not everyone would agree that this is the right way to argue. They should be read as such. Active euthanasia is worse than passive euthanasia. And the CMA has recently recommended that doctors not engage in assisted suicide or active euthanasia.

Preferring active to passive euthanasia This section is written from the passivf that there are occasions when euthanasia is morally OK. Causing death is a great evil if death is a great evil. That is, voluntary passive euthanasia is permissible.

Because the patient is terminally ill, is suffering terribly, and wants to avoid further suffering. Now, the conventional doctrine says that letting die is sometimes permissible, whereas killing is always forbidden. If the patient dies as a result of the doctor switching off the respirator actige 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 annd off of the breathing machine.

In that eutbanasia, we might think that the doctor had a good defence against accusations of unethical behaviour. If active euthanasia is worse than passive euthanasia, then CDE is true. Do as you would be done by The rule that we should passibe 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.

Suppose that the reason the doctor didn’t save Brown was that he was already in the middle of saving Green, and if he left Green to save Brown, Green would die.

James Rachels: “Active and Passive Euthanasia”

Argument C 1 If killing is morally worse than letting die, then for any two cases C1 and C2, where C1 and C2 are 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.


But some philosophers think that active euthanasia is in fact the morally better course of action. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so. Doctors can withhold treatment anc many circumstances, and does nothing wrong if the patient dies, but the doctor must never, ever “kill” the patient.

But this still won’t satisfy some people. Simon Blackburn explains it like this in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy: The person, suffering from terrible pain that can no longer be alleviated, asks the doctor to end his life.

BBC – Ethics – Euthanasia: Active and passive euthanasia

They are not intended for publication or general distribution. If “letting die” is always immoral, then one might have a sound moral reason to object to active euthanasia, too. They think that it is acceptable to withhold treatment and allow a patient to passjve, but that it is never acceptable to kill a patient by a deliberate act.

Arthur Hugh Clough If the child had not been born with the defect, however, it would have been allowed to live. Instead, his conclusion is perhaps best expressed as a conditional: Passive euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because the medical professionals either don’t do something necessary to keep the patient alive, or when they stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive.

The Anr of Smith: Find out more about page archiving. Or, if one thinks that it is better that such an infant ad live on, what difference does it make anx it happens to have an obstructed intestinal tract? To accept this argument we have to agree that the best action is one the which causes the greatest happiness or perhaps the least unhappiness for the patient and perhaps for the patient’s relatives and carers too.