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Ethics Coursework

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"An acceptance of voluntary euthanasia is incompatible with Christian belief in the sanctity of life but not with the attitude of some ethical philosophers or some medical practitioners." Discuss. In the year of 1989, Anthony Bland, a seventeen year old football player received severe head injuries from being crushed in a crowd at his team's stadium1. Parts of his brain were starved of oxygen and therefore he became unconscious although not brain dead. Unlike other cases similar to his own, a respirator was not needed so doctors decided that it would be better if he carried on living, even though he had effectively lost all his dignity. In 1993, courts eventually decided that there was no point carrying on his life through medical help, but only put this across as their own decision. Euthanasia derives from the Greek meaning 'good death' and is the practice of ending a persons suffering from a terminal illness. Although there have been many advances in medicine which help to delay a fast approaching death, many people see euthanasia as being the only option they can take in order to maintain their dignity from the disease. In this way, Euthanasia is a controversial and emotional subject which affects huge numbers of families who have a terminally ill relation. Even though many can clearly see why people would take this way out of pain, there are many groups of people who oppose the subject, from religious groups to the B.M.A (British Medical Association). In Britain, no type of euthanasia is conventional or legal, yet countries such as Switzerland and Holland2 fully accept the practice. Many Christians express their views against Euthanasia because of their belief in the Sanctity of Life, which makes clear that no killing is acceptable or justifiable. Nevertheless, due to modern changes in society, many Christians are in line with the belief of the quality of a person's life rather than the sanctity. ...read more.


Overall the belief in the sanctity of life is in line with the passive form of Euthanasia, as one 'looks over' the fact that the patient is discarding the belief that God decides when they will die. On the other hand, it is not in line with active and voluntary Euthanasia as it is without doubt a rebuff of God's moral authority on our death. Thus, this type of the practice cannot be in line with the sanctity of life. Although the debate centres mostly on a religious perspective, many philosophers put forward their secular views. For instance, Peter Vardy suggests that the aged and ill who cannot care for themselves, should consider their carers and families. Would it be better for most if they were euthanized?15 On the other hand, many people could argue that the practice would be abused and many people would be murdered if euthanasia was made legal. Many ethical philosophers have applied their theories to the subject of Euthanasia. The philosopher Immanuel Kant stated, like many religious groups, that all Euthanasia is intrinsically wrong, as ending a life can never be justified. In theories such as Utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham and J.S Mill put forward the idea that Euthanasia can be a good act as ending a patient's pain can validate killing them. A key point that is made poignant in the Euthanasia debate is the question whether allowing the patient to die is the same as murdering. Although this is a uncertain distinction, The Doctrine of Acts and Omissions tries to make the point clear. Simon Blackburn, a professor of philosophy at Cambridge states, "The doctrine that it makes an ethical difference whether an agent actively intervenes to bring about a result, or omits to act in circumstances in which it is foreseen that as a result of the omission the same result occurs"16. This clearly portrays that avoiding a good act is not wrong, but doing these actions could be seen as immoral. ...read more.


Despite the many doctors who oppose euthanasia, many also accept it. Studies have shown that 32% of doctors have practiced or would practice euthanasia if it were to be made legal, many suggesting that the law against it needed to be changed28. These figures may be surprising to some people who know doctors have an oath they are bound to, however they may realise that these doctors are more concerned with the patient's wishes, rather than the moral laws which are attached to them. In conclusion, many can see that the euthanasia debate brings up many moral issues among religious and ethical groups alike. Following this, it can be difficult to differentiate between the different types of the practice, but also it is difficult to know when you have to disregard a person's human rights. Most Christians and some deontologists are absolute in their beliefs, taking teachings out of the Bible so they can lead a moral life. Medical practitioners prefer to take a more practical view by following the Hippocratic Oath, although both sets of teachings lead to one ultimate rule: 'Do not kill'. On the other hand, others who do not believe that the Sanctity of life is more important than the quality are fully accepting of the practice of voluntary euthanasia. They maintain that a person's right to the quality of life is more important than dragging there life out for longer but with more pain. Overall, many would say that the practice is in line with some moral philosopher's beliefs and also with some medical practitioner's. We can see that more and more Christians are becoming for the practice and are against the sanctity of life, being more in favour for the quality. However, the problem remains with the sanctity of life demonstrating God's power over us as His people. So in this way, the practice of voluntary euthanasia is not in line with the principle of the Sanctity of Life. ...read more.

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