The dilemma around the issue of euthanasia, as well as its moral and social role, is one of those questions that constantly divide humanity in its practitioners and opponents. Some philosophers suggest that euthanasia as a phenomenon is a threat to the natural human right for life and, in any case, it does not represented personal good will. Their opponents suggest that euthanasia reduces pain of the sick person and his/her relatives, thus being a better solution for the dying person. The paper will focus on the two theories of Consequentialists and Deontologists approving euthanasia with the prerogative to the Moral theory of Kant that forbids it.
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First of all, it is rational to discuss the issue of euthanasia within the criterion of morally right action, interpreted by the two largest groups of philosophers. The first group – Consequentialists – proves that morally the right action is the one that produces better consequences. The second group – Deontologists – critically estimates such opinion proving that the best consequences do not always mean that the action is right. However, Consequentialist theories have two branches: the Egoistic and Universalistic theories. The Egoistic theory touches the interpretation of the better consequences related only to “those which see the consequences which matter morally as including only consequences for the doer of the action, the agent” (Telfer). Universalists consider this issue wider roving that all affected individuals have relation to the consequences.
Those theories in fact stand for approval of euthanasia as a way of satisfaction through reduced pain. Physical or mental/inner/spiritual pain is a phenomenon that breaks well-being. Euthanasia within this context is a better solution as it eliminates pain and suffering of the sick person and his or her surrounding that suffers as well. Along with that, Deontologists theory provides two negative arguments about voluntary euthanasia. Elizabeh Telfer mentioned them as “the right not to be killed” and “the right to liberty” (n. p.). Somehow, those theories are based on the opinion that voluntary euthanasia is a choice of a person and it is not murder as opposed to war or suicide death. Hence, if the person has a will not to live anymore and her life is not a precious possession to him/her, then euthanasia is the better resolution. First, Kant represents the Deontology concept and despite the fact that his position on euthanasia is different, here are some principles forming the basis of his philosophy of practical mind.
Emmanuel Kant’s opinion against euthanasia on the background of Consequentialists theory looks more rational and objective and works in the next way. Classical moral theories consider that killing yourself is wrong, so rationally it is wrong to make another person kill oneself, destroying the morality and principles not to kill. In dilemma between “response to pain” and painful life, Kant is inclined to choose life (Biggs 18). Only those deeds can be moral that do not make obstacles to duties. In Kant’s theory, the sense of existence of human being is in feeling of duty/responsibility, but not in achieving satisfaction as the majority thinks. In this case, euthanasia should pass legalization so the human deed would be defined not by external conditions, but as a voluntary choice of the individual’s autonomous will.
Nevertheless, Kant’s moral theory does not include radical statements against euthanasia. Some scientists interpret his theory as carefully organized principles of autonomous will and human respect, so the behavior should also be based on the personal will. Freedom in Kant’s outlook is a submission to the duty, and duty in turn includes existence by itself.
The normativity of Kant’s ethics includes the singularity of his motive: only those deeds can be moral that were committed with the feeling of duty. His iimperative forbids the maxims that are not generalized, and those deeds that were dictated from the outside, which means human acceptance is only a resource. Obviously, it is not enough neither for assessment of the concrete deeds, nor for establishment of the singular model of behavior for the moral individual. Hence, in Kant’s moral theory, euthanasia does not break the forbidden side of his imperative, but it breaks the principle of singularity of the motive. That is why his Deontology theory is rather in opposition to euthanasia practice than supporting it.
In the context of interpretation of various moral theories about euthanasia, it is obviously incorrect to compare the quantity of sufferings and well-being. In fact, it is the competition between life in a suffering form and absence of life in any form. A life is a gift even when it becomes painful. Approval of euthanasia as a will of the sick person itself means recognition that if the sick person could have his/her life he/she would stop it on his/her own. Hence, this is a straight approval and recognition of suicide, however, not everyone who supports euthanasia recognizes suicide as something of “tolerance” (Pereira 1). In the context of morality some theoretic supports the statement that it is more expensive to support someone’s life (despite the personal will of the sick person) than performing the procedure of euthanasia. For majority, it is a rational argument, but it does not provide the recognition from some religions and family values principles.
Thus, the moral aspect of euthanasia constantly divides philosophy opinions into two large parts that have several subdivisions. Consequentialists and Deontologists in their majority support euthanasia as a resolution of the issue of suffering that touches both the sick person and his/her surroundings. The moral theory of Kant is dual in its interpretation of will and duty, but it is more inclined to forbid euthanasia as a break of singularity of the human motive.
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