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Is there an ethical difference between actively killing someone and letting someone die?

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Introduction

´╗┐Moral Dilemmas This moral dilemma poses the question as to whether there is an ethical difference between actively killing someone and letting someone die. Is it morally wrong to kill someone but acceptable to let someone die? An active action is the process by which someone deliberately and uncontrovertibly does something, fully knowing and intending what the consequences will be. A passive action is the process by which someone deliberately does not act, even after knowing what the consequences will be. In the former case, the developer is going to indisputably kill six protestors, in order to prevent any opposition (an active action as this developer is going to actually kill them). ...read more.

Middle

?Thou shalt not kill but needst not strive, officiously, to keep alive?, Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861). But some people think this distinction is nonsense, since killing someone is a deliberate act, and so is deciding not to save someone. In active killing, a person is required to take an action with the intention that it will cause the death. In passive killing, a person lets someone die. However, this person is required to carry out an action (to not act) with the intention that it will cause death. So there is no real difference between passive and active killing, since both have the same result: the death of a person. ...read more.

Conclusion

One evening Jones sneaks into the bathroom where the child is having his bath. As he enters the bathroom he sees the boy fall over, hit his head on the side of the bath and slide face-down under the water. Jones is delighted; he doesn't rescue the child but stands by the bath, and watches as the child drowns. This doctrine is currently the position of the law. There is no obligation to save someone but you are classed a murderer if you actively kill someone. However, most people would say that this difference between their moral guilt is nil. In my opinion, although there might be a moral difference between these cases, there is not an ethical reason to distinguish the two. Therefore, you would only be justified in stopping both of these building works, or allowing them both to go ahead. 09/03/2011 ...read more.

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