Euthanasia: Moral Philosophy Essay

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Euthanasia according to utilitarianism
The Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines “euthanasia” as the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of the hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy”, from the Greek for “easy death” (2000).
There has been a great deal of recent activity in the courts for the right to die. More and more patients seek enforcement of their right to determine when they have suffered long enough and the medical bureaucracy can no longer impose itself upon them (Carl, 1988).
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality. Moral philosophy includes ethical theory and a part of philosophical anthropology called moral psychology. Ethical theory examines the right. Moral psychology inquiries into the mental states in which people do right (Ryan, 1998). Almost every important tendency in modern thought has questioned the possibility of making moral judgments. Analytical philosophy asserts that moral statements are expressions of emotion lacking any rational or scientific basis.
Utilitarianism refers to a systematic theory of moral philosophy developed by the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The goal with Bentham’s ethical theory was to create to create the greatest degree of benefit for the largest number of people, while incurring the least amount of damage and harm. (Cavico, & Mujtaba, 2008) 1. The Action. A utilitarian analysis first requires identification of the action to be evaluated. In this study the action is whether euthanasia is an immoral or moral act. The parties directly affected are the patient and doctor. Those indirectly affected are the patient’s family, the shareholders of the employers (the hospital) and society in general. 2. The Consequences. The final step in a utilitarian analysis is to weigh the positive and negative consequences of any action. The analysis assigns hypothetical numerical values to the relative benefit or pain for each category of person affected. These values fall on a suggested numerical scale from -5 (most paint) to +5 (most benefit). Accordingly, +1 or -1 would represent a negligible amount of benefit or pain, respectively, with +5 or -5 simplifying a considerable amount. i. The Patient. The positive consequences for the patient is that he will feel relieved to not have the burden of suffering or dying a slow death anymore. The dying process has become a drawn-out affair, putting the patient and his family through prolonged misery. The patient as a result begs the physician to help him end his life as peacefully and quickly as possible. The act in the case of the patient is morally upright because it produces more pleasure than pain for the patient. Overall, the good consequences appear to weigh heavily against the bad resulting in a value of +4 for the patient. ii. The Doctor. The doctor will be assisting with the death of the patient, whether it is actively or passively. The positive consequence will be that the doctor will be satisfying the needs of the patient; he will be committing a moral act because he will be providing the patient with pleasure. A negative consequence is that the reputation of the doctor might be in jeopardy. There is an important principle of medical practice here: no physician should be obligated to offer a treatment which is futile in that it will not benefit the patient medically (Hall, 1994). Another common concern among physicians is that legalizing physician-assisted suicide will diminish the trust that patients have in their physicians. This is based upon the simplistic assumption that trust implies only that physicians will do no harm. The fact is that many patients now want to trust that their physicians will stay with them and will not abandon them when the only way out of their suffering is to help them to die as they choose. Another negative consequence of euthanasia is…