The Ethical Dilemma of Euthanasia
Euthanasia is a term that is commonly used to refer to the act of ending an individual’s
life to alleviate their pain and suffering. There are various forms of euthanasia, including
voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia, passive and active euthanasia, assisted suicide and
indirect suicide. The ethical problem of euthanasia is deciding whether an individual has the
right to determine their date and method of death. The rules and legal regulations regarding
euthanasia are different in countries all over the world, with only some forms being allowed in
select countries. According to the Debating Europe website, only three states have legalized
euthanasia – the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium ("Should Euthanasia Be Legalized
Across Europe?"). A few other European countries have only begun to be more liberal on the
issue of euthanasia, only tacitly permitting it in the form of assisted suicide or euthanasia. It
seems as if the rest of the world applies a deontological perspective and considers euthanasia to
be immoral and unethical.
The moral admissibility of euthanasia can be best analyzed using the theoretical
framework of patient-centered deontology. However, the emotions of other associated parties
(the loved ones and parents) should be removed or disregarded when looking at euthanasia as a
method for death. In his book, Bioethics: Principles, Issues and Cases, Lewis Vaughn articulates
that the theories of deontology not only sanitize actions depending on their results or
consequences but also depending on their ‘intrinsic nature’ (Vaughn p.13). The better choice,
according to the deontological perspective, is the one that fulfills moral duties. Patient-centered
deontology is based more on rights and less on duty, but it still maintains its essence because, in
the case of the ethical dilemma of euthanasia, deontology calls for an in-depth analysis of the
‘killing' itself and not the consequences expected from it.
Just as all human beings possess the right to life, they also have the right not to be taken
advantage of. Many individuals who are against euthanasia recall Immanuel Kant's principle of
autonomy to argue that terminally ill patients are merely using doctors for their benefit. Vaughn
establishes a point of reference through Kant's theory by determining that the principle of
autonomy confers respect to individuals (not to be used by others for selfish benefits) and assigns
value which ‘derives from their nature as free, rational beings, capable of directing their own
lives, determining their own ends, and decreeing their own rules by which to live' (Vaughn p.
650). Although Immanuel Kant would not support euthanasia, his principle of autonomy is
commonly applied when arguing on the moral permissibility of euthanasia in the event of the
patient’s consent. Besides, the difference between passive and active euthanasia subsides the
whole concept of patient autonomy.
Deontology sums up the belief that instead of instead of letting terminally patients die,
we should seek all avenues to extend their lives and treat their condition no matter the stakes.
The act of killing a human being or positively contributing to their self-killing is intrinsically
wrong by nature, no matter the circumstances and future consequences.
The deontological argument against euthanasia seems to be reasonable, but if a patient
can be entirely free from suffering and illness, or they are merely being kept alive by expensive
machines shouldn’t they be allowed to opt for death? The famous theory of utilitarianism is used
to argue for euthanasia alongside deontology. In the practical view, it is significant to distinguish
passive euthanasia from active euthanasia. Passive euthanasia refers to the act of letting one die,
and it may involve engaging the medical doctors to neglect the necessary life support systems
keeping the patient alive. Active euthanasia, on the other hand, consists of the use of active
agents such as potassium chloride and other muscle-relaxing agents to end the life of the sick
person. Utilitarians hold the view that any action should provide the greatest happiness for the
most people and the consequences, in the end, is what should determine the morality of an effect.
Because euthanasia reduces suffering and pain and increases happiness at the same time,
Utilitarians argue that it is morally correct.
Most terminally ill patients go through levels of pain as the sickness progresses to worse
levels. It becomes increasingly difficult to enjoy the things in life that pleased them and there
possibly could be no higher spiritual or intellectual effort that would offset the balance of
unhappiness caused from the physical pain. It may become a heart-wrenching sight for the
family and loved ones of the sick individual to watch the disease escalate to its climax and
increase their suffering and pain. Contrastingly, the death of the individual (euthanasia) will raise
the score to zero and thus reduce the misery of the individual and in some cases, the medical
expenses to the family. Moreover, apart from being free from pain, the suffering individuals get
to regain their respect and dignity. Utilitarians believe that an individual has sovereign authority
over the decisions they make regarding their bodies. If a person decides in a lucid state to give up
their life to be free from physical pain and suffering, then it is entirely up to them and no other
I would take a virtue-based approach when dealing with the ethical dilemma of
euthanasia as opposed to the deontological and utilitarian theories. The evolution of the practice
of medicine has shifted the paradigm for medical ethics, and this demands the application of
rational and objective rules to specific cases of euthanasia. While the principle of autonomy is
essential in the deontological perspective, virtue-based ethics initiates an approach that is
centered on three virtues- benevolence, compassion, and respectfulness.
The virtue of compassion calls for empathy and deep engagement and identification with
the suffering of the terminally ill patient. Benevolence, by definition, refers to the disposition to
do good deeds or being kind-hearted. The virtue of charity calls for the kind and helpful actions
that reflect a deeper understanding of the predicament of terminal illness. Respectfulness is the
recognition that the suffering individual is capable of self-fulfillment from knowing themselves.
If the ethical dilemma is tackled with the ethics of virtue in consideration, a more positive
dialogue will be advanced between the patient, the doctors and the loved ones instead of relying
on doctor-directed or patient-centered deontology theories which are mostly based on the
principles of autonomy.
It is significant to note that in line with virtue ethics, the objective of medicine is to
achieve better patient welfare. Concerning terminal sickness, however, better patient prosperity
cannot be obtained, and continuous life might even prove to be harmful. James Rachel
establishes in The Elements of Moral Philosophy that the balance of happiness over unhappiness
is always the right thing to do, and sometimes the balance can be brought about through
Euthanasia. He justified mercy killing to be morally right because it meant less pain and
suffering for humanity. Euthanasia can be explained as the compassionate, respectful and
benevolent response to the plight of the patient.
In conclusion, many arguments can be advanced to establish the moral permissibility of
mercy killing as it becomes a significantly popular issue in contemporary society. More people
now align their opinions with the teleological aspects of John Stuart Mill's theory of
utilitarianism. In addition to having complete authority over one's body and control over their
fate, allowing individuals to opt for euthanasia frees up hospital space and enables many other
people to receive treatment for their ailments. The practical approach to euthanasia confers the
highest amount of happiness and the least amount of suffering.
"Should Euthanasia Be Legalised Across Europe?" Debating Europe, 18 Mar. 2015,
"The Ethical Dilemma of Euthanasia | NewsActivist." NewsActivist | Read, Write, React,
Behrens, Laurence, and Leonard J. Rosen. Revel for a Sequence for Academic Writing Plus the
Writer's Handbook -- Access Code Card. Pearson, 2018.
Vaughn, Lewis. Bioethics: Principles, Issues, and Cases. Oxford UP, USA, 2016.
Instructor peer review:
1. the introduction engage your interest in the issue and help you understand the issue being
debated? If not, make suggestions for improvement.
You are not exactly answering the issue which is how would YOU deal with an ethical dilemma.
. When there is no clear right and wrong choice, how do you decide? To what principles can you turn for
guidance? Your task in the synthesis will be to wrestle with ethical dilemmas and to argue for a clear
course of action based on principles you make plain to your readers.
2. Is there enough background information on the topic? If not, state what you feel you as a reader
need to know in order to understand the topic.
You are arguing about euthanasia. That is not the assignment. So I found your thesis, but it is very late in
the paper, meaning you actually have too much background information.
3. Rate the strength of this paper's thesis.
1 of 5
4. Does the thesis preview the organizational plan of the paper?
I do not see a thesis that answers the assigned writing prompt
5. Does the essay follow this organizational plan?
since the thesis is very late, it is not possible to really tell.
6. Does each paragraph of this paper logically progress from the former ones? Why or why not?
most of the paper is informational rather than defendign what you the writer think is the best approach
when dealing with any ethical dilemma. We are not only dealing with one dilemma. that is not the
7. Do all the topic sentences relate to the thesis statement?
again, the topic sentences in the beginning are not focused towards a thesis because there is no thesis
until very late. (I made a comment to indicate where your thesis is.
8. Does this paper sustain a coherent point of view? Why or why not?
needs restructuring around a thesis that answers the writing prompt of this assignment.
9. Rate this paper's overall readabilty
3 of 5
10. Can the conclusion of this paper be convincingly drawn from the thesis and the argument made in
the body of the paper? Why or why not?
11. Is there a counterargument paragraph that both presents and refutes opposing positions and has
effective "counterargument language? make suggestions for improvement.
there are opposing views, but they need to be presented more directly as opposite of what the writer
suggests and then refuted.
12. Is each paragraph unified? In other words, are there too many points in any paragraph?
13. Does the logic of this paper's argument ever fall flat? Where? What might be done to correct this?
14. Do you feel this paper relies on evidence, or on opinion or intuition? If the latter, cite examples of
where this paper relies on opinion and intuition and give suggestions as to how the writer can
write more objectively.
there is a lot of research, but again it is not all focused on the thesis, rather on the background
15. How smoothly does this paper integrate examples into its own argument? Does it clearly illustrate
connections between the evidence it cites and the ideas they support, or does it merely assume
all evidence should be used to support a topic sentence that then support the thesis
16. How clearly does the author express his or her ideas?
4 of 5
17. Could the writer of this paper have omitted certain passages to make this paper more concise? If
yes, which ones?
yes, it takes far too long to get to the point
18. At which point did you feel most interested by this piece? When least? Explain.
Least in the beginning since there are multiple paragraphs before the thesis. Too many.
19. How effective was the writer's use of language?
4 of 5
20. Scan and spot the paper for the any of the following problems: colloquialisms, informality,
clichés, and wordiness. Give a few examples of these problems, if they exist.
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