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UCL Biomedical Sciences 2.1
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Euthanasia

Killing is wrong in principle.

Is there a difference in injecting potassium chloride to end a patients life and injecting patients with morphine, with the intent to relieve suffering even though there is a foreseeable effect of shortening the patient’s life?

The difference in these two cases is the intention of the doctor. Injecting with potassium chloride is a positive act intended to end a patients life. In the case of morphine, death is foreseen but not intended.

Killing therefore involves two aspects. 1. it is a positive act rather than omission to act 2.death is intended rather than foreseen

Thought experiments do not usually demonstrate the three key features of euthanasia:

  1. the doctorhas a clear duty of care to the person who dies
  2. there is no issue of harming one person to benefit another
  3. death is in the best interests of the person who dies

Is it harm of death that makes killing wrong?

Dying is considered a harm in that it is better to live in most circumstances. It is the harm of dying that makes killing wrong; not the wrong of killing that makes dying a harm.

So when living is no longer in the persons best interests and dying is no longer a harm, does that mean that killing is no longer a wrong? This then goes back to the argument that killing must be wrong in principle.

The slippery slope argument

 

The Golden Ball

lantern

Gleaming white
with golden linings,
draped in pearls
and brightly shining.

A gust of wind,
the lantern sways;
asleep in its pearly sea,
the flickering fire stays.

A drop of rain
begins to fall,
on the silent flame
in the golden ball.

A whisp of smoke
moves through the air,
an empty shell-
once glowing,
now bare.