Biomedical Ethics I Essay

Submitted By bobkingsly
Words: 1178
Pages: 5

In James Rachels’ “Smith v. Jones” analogy to passive and active euthanasia, Rachels argues that the moral differences between active and passive euthanasia are negligible. To assert this, he uses the nonexistent characters of Smith and Jones to characterize active and passive euthanasia. The most blatant objection with Rachels’ comparison of active euthanasia to passive euthanasia is that it’s unjust for Rachels to compare the actions of Smith and Jones, two individuals who are villain-esque and have a shared intent to kill, to the actions of a doctor who’s deciding what’s best for his or her patients. Smith and Jones are dealing with a perfectly able-bodied child who doesn’t seem to have any glaring health problems, and they both intend to kill the child for monetary gain. In a realistic scenario concerning doctors and patients, a decision on euthanasia has no villain-like intent. If driven to euthanasia, a doctor is almost always deciding on it for humanistic reasons rather than having malicious intent, similar to that of Smith and Jones. A possible retort from Rachels to this objection would be that focusing on that aspect of the argument is short-sighted. Defining and outlining the actions that took place convey Rachels’ argument in a much clearer sense. In the Smith and Jones example, Rachels tries to show that Jones’ non-intervention caused the boy’s death in the same way that Smith’s active killing of the boy did. In Rachels’ argument, Jones’ actions would be similar to a doctor refusing to treat a man injured by a dagger wound, letting the man bleed to death, then saying that it was solely the dagger that killed the man, not him. The doctor’s reasoning wouldn’t simply excuse him from the death of this man, but rather he would be held accountable for malpractice and manslaughter in a realistic setting. Some may argue that Smith is morally guiltier than Jones, since he actively killed the child while Jones didn’t intervene whatsoever. However, Smith and Jones were striving for the same outcome, making their effort almost equal in terms of immorality. As for the effectiveness of Rachels’ argument, he does a reasonable job of asserting that there are negligible differences between the two forms of euthanasia through to villain-esque characters who strive for the same outcome, succeed in said outcome but go about it two different ways. Rachels’ accentuates that since the intent is the same, the examples of Smith and Jones are one in the same. Through this, he shows how a doctor committing active euthanasia and a one committing passive euthanasia should be held in the same light because their intent and outcomes are the same. The counterargument that because one example has malicious intent and one doesn’t is baseless because in both scenarios, two people are striving for the same thing, malicious intent or not. What they want is the same and what they end up with is the same, ergo they committed the same act. Rachels effectively shows that since Smith and Jones’ acts were equal in morality but carried out slightly differently, active and passive euthanasia are equal since intent and outcome are the exact same. Through this, Rachels also succeeds in asserting his main point that active euthanasia shouldn’t be barred by the AMA because of the insignificant differences between it and the AMA - “approved” passive euthanasia.

B - 2

In Thomson’s “Famous Violinist Problem”, multiple objections arise in response to her logic. The most glaring objection is that the difference between a human fetus and the famous violinist is that if you were found to be hooked to said “famous violinist”, you would have no complicity in the case of the violinist. You have no sense of responsibility for the man since you were just picked off of the street for coincidentally having the same blood type as said violinist. In most cases of pregnancy, there was consensual sex involved, with both parties realizing the consequences that could arise…