Ethics. Research. Community.

Killing, letting die and euthanasia.

Journal of medical ethics. 
5
(4): 
200-202; 
1979. 
(English). 
[Record Source: PubMed]
Medical ethicists debate whether or not the moral assessment of cases of euthanasia should depend on whether the patient is 'killed' or 'allowed to die'. The usual presupposition is that a clear distinction between killing and letting die can be drawn so that this substantive question is not begged. I contend that the categorisation of cases of instances of killing rather than as instances of letting die depends in part on a prior moral assessment of the case. Hence is it trivially rather than substantively true that the distinction has moral significance. But even if a morally neutral (ie non-question begging) distinction could be drawn, its application to the euthanasia controversy is problematic. I illustrate the difficulties of employing this distinction to reach moral conclusions by critically discussing Philippa Foot's recent treatment of euthanasia. I conclude that even if an act of euthanasia is an instance of killing, and there exists a prima facie moral duty not to kill, and no more stringent duty overrides this duty, one still cannot determine such an act to be morally impermissible.
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Detailed Record Information

Record TypeJournal Article
Record Source Status
[MEDLINE]
FormatsPrint
ISSN0306-6800