Wrongfulness of E uthanasia

Euthanasia: 1.deliberately/intentionally 2.taking a human life, 3. believed to be suffering from some
disease or injury from which recovery cannot be reasonably expected (a hopeless case). This
excludes accidental deaths; unintended death resulting from medication intended to help;
withholding useless treatment; withdrawing useless treatment.
Arg from Nature 1. Our bodies have a natural inclination to continue living (e.g., against infections).
2.We have instinctive self-defense mechanisms. 3. We exercise daily caution to protect ourselves. 4.
So, there’s a natural inclination to continue living. 5. Euthanasia is intentionally taking a human life.
6. So, euthanasia does violence to this natural goal of survival.
(1&2&3)Æ4, (4&5)Æ6
1 & 2 & 3
& 5 & [7]
Problems: (a) There comes a point when the recuperative powers of the body, self-defense reflexes,
self-healing diminish, physical and mental powers all seriously diminish to the point of no longer
living. So, there’s also a natural inclination not to continue living. If euthanasia is performed when
one is close to death, then e. is simply going along with the natural process. (b) Debatable
assumption in (4&5&[7])Æ6. [7]We should conform to all natural inclinations. Assumption [7]
requires support because it’s just as problematic as the conclusion (question begging).
Arg. From Self-interest: 1.Death is final & irreversible. 2.We could be mistaken about our hopeless
situation. 3.There could be a recent medical cure. 4. Spontaneous remissions do occur often. 5.We
should [always?] keep this option open.
6. Available euthanasia inclines us to give up too easily. 7.Recovery from a serious illness requires a
strong will to live, requires not to give up. 8. So, euthanasia goes against our self-interest.
(1&2)Æ8, (1&3&4&5)Æ8, (6&7)Æ8
1 & 2 _ _ _ 1&3&4&5 _ _ _ 6&7
Problems: (a) Meaning of “self-interest”. It must mean more than mere biological self-interest.
There is quality-of-life self-interest.
Problems with inferences: CEs against (1&2)Æ8: What if the person is tired of living, and would not
want to live. What if we are not mistaken about our hopeless situation, and as a result go through
needless suffering. It’s equally possible that we are not mistaken; so, 2 does not make any difference
for supporting 8. CEs against (1&3&4&5)Æ8: same previous two CEs; what if there is no
spontaneous remission. Against 3 & 4: it’s equally possible that there will be no cure or spontaneous
remission; so, 3 & 4 don’t make any difference for supporting 8. CE against (6&7)Æ8: What if there
is no reasonable likelihood of recovery regardless of one’s will.
Problems with the truth of premises. Against 5: it is just as questionable as 8 (question begging).
Against 6: What’s the evidence? Against 8: false. A strong will contributes to some recoveries, but
these do not apply to all situations where euthanasia is considered.
Arg from Practical Effects: 1.The practice of euthanasia might diminish health care teams total
commitment to saving lives (“s/he’s better off dead”). 2. This could carry over to their dealings with
less seriously ill patients. 3. So, there would be less overall quality care. 4. People authorized to act
on behalf of a patient as they see fit inclines them to act on the behalf of others who have not
authorized them. 5. It is “only a short step” from voluntary to involuntary euthanasia.
6. So, there is a risk of involuntary euthanasia (conducted as part of a social policy).
(1&2)Æ3, (4&5)Æ6, (4&6)Æ[Euthanasia should not be legalized.]
1 & 2
4 & 5
3 & 6
[Euthanasia should not be legalized.]
Problems with inferences: CE against (1&2)Æ3: What if it does not diminish the commitment to
rationally hopeful cases. CE against (4&5)Æ6: What if strict guidelines that eliminate the risk of
involuntary euthanasia are provided.
Problems with the truth of premises: Evidence for 4 and 5?
Counterargument against 3: 1.The practice of euthanasia might NOT diminish health care teams
total commitment to saving lives (“s/he’s better off dead”). 2. This could carry over to their dealings
with less seriously ill patients. 3. So, there would NOT be less overall quality care.
J.Gay-Williams, The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia, in Ethics, Theory and Contemporary Issues, ed.
Barbara MacKinnon, 4th ed., 2004.