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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Therefore 6 CDE is true.

This gap leads us to believe that killing is always worse. Thus suppose I wish you dead, if I act to bring about your death I am a murderer, but if I happily discover you in danger of death, and fail to act to save you, I am not acting, and therefore, according to the doctrine, not a passife.

Causing their death swiftly is a lesser evil than allowing them to live in pain. Religion and Ethics home Religions. In this case letting someone die is morally very bad indeed.

Either way, the patient is dead. Consider these two cases:. While you will be able to view the racheos of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Rachels denies that killing is intrinsically that is, in itself worse than letting die. Acts psssive omissions This is one of the classic ideas in ethics. Smith will gain a large inheritance if his six-year-old cousin dies. It is not the case that passive euthanasia never produces more suffering than active euthanasia.

Active and passive euthanasia.

James Rachels has offered some other arguments that work differently. But cases in which passive euthanasia seems permissible are cases in which continued existence is regarded as worse than death.

It demonstrates that some cases of letting die are at least as bad as killing. Instead, his conclusion passivs perhaps best expressed as a conditional: It follows rachelss, indeed, the AMA’s policy on euthanasia is seriously misguided, which is just a nice way of saying that it is blatantly false. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so. A asks his doctor to end it all. Not everyone would agree that this is the right way to argue.


One well-known ethical principle says that we should only be guided by moral principles that we would accept should be followed by everyone. But what makes the killings worse is not the bare fact that they involve a killing, but other background facts about the cases e. Now, the conventional doctrine says that letting die is sometimes permissible, whereas killing is always forbidden.

Only rules that apply to everyone can be accepted One well-known dachels principle says abd we should only be guided by moral principles adtive we would accept should be followed by everyone. 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. It is not the case that 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.

If acting in accordance with CDE leads to decisions about passive euthanasia being made on irrelevant grounds, racjels CDE is false. Rachels says that he can understand someone who opposes both active and passive euthanasia as immoral practices, but cannot make sense of approving of one and not the other. A is in great pain, despite high doses of painkilling drugs.

The person, suffering from terrible pain that can no longer be alleviated, asks the doctor to end his life. We can look at this situation is another way: Because the patient is terminally ill, is suffering terribly, and wants to avoid further suffering.

Active and passive euthanasia.

Is there a real difference? A will die in about 7 days.

Here’s a case to consider: 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 rachele moral difference. Doctors can withhold treatment in many circumstances, and euthajasia nothing wrong if the patient dies, but the doctor must never, ever “kill” the patient.


The rule that we should treat other people as we would like them to treat us also seems to racheld euthanasia, if we would want to be put out of our misery if we were in A’s position. In situations for which passive euthanasia is permissible under this justification, there are no morally sound reason for prohibiting active euthanasia, and in some cases, active euthanasia is morally preferable to passive euthanasia. As Rachels notes, the AMA takes a suthanasia stand.

It holds that it is sometimes permissible to withhold treatment, but it is never permissible to directly kill patients. The refusal of treatment to some “defective” newborns, and the subsequent death by dehydration, shows that some cases of letting die are worse than killing. His goal is to challenge the distinction. The moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia, or between “killing” and “letting die”.

Therefore 4 Active euthanasia is worse than passive euthanasia.

Active and passive euthanasia

Acting in accordance with CDE leads to decisions about passive euthanasia being made on irrelevant grounds. Let’s suppose that the reason A wants to die is because he wants to stop suffering pain, and that that’s the reason the doctor is willing to allow euthanasia in each case.

But this is irrelevant, according to Rachels. A lesser evil should always be preferred to a greater evil. Our goal is to prevent further unnecessary suffering.

If “letting die” is always immoral, then one might have a sound moral reason to object to active euthanasia, too.