The Morality of Euthanasia by Sean Castleberry


[Music] [Music] – Hello, Professor Castleberry here and this is another one of my philosophical lecture shorts. This week we’re gonna discuss the morality of euthanasia. This is a lecture short for made for my ethics class online and so we’re just going through some brief moments and the readings of which we did today from the essay by James Rachels and an essay by Bonnie Steinbeck on this to`pic, and so we’re not gonna hit all the major points try to talk them quickly we’re citing the exhaustive look at me again. Alright so let’s just start with all talk first with what euthanasia means. Well in Greek it literally means the good death, okay. But euthanasia that over the years, they use for many different things. I mean it comes from the medically way we use it. The medical definition of when someone is terminally ill, that’s the way, and they decide that they want to die and we allow them to or we give them something which kills them, that would be euthanasia. But, we’ve seen euthanasia, you know it can be used with animals and that way but we also seen euthanasia may be used with certain groups of people use genocide, yeah we’re not going to talk about that but euthanasia has been used in many different uh examples, but today we’re going to treated and the medical field and how it’s used there. And here in the US was first talked about passive euthanasia and the U.S. passive euthanasia is allowed in all fifty states and all territories and what passive euthanasia means is that we bring about the death of a patient by removing some type of life-sustaining treatment. -there and then- one thing with passive euthanasia on this this idea is a it has takes on many different types of euthanasia, it can be anything from something like Terri Schiavo, the case of Terri Schiavo where she had a feeding tube but she herself could not respond and her family decided to take her feeding tube out which killed her, but it could also mean cases such as you know someone who’s on chemotherapy and just decides not to do chemo treatment anymore and then the illness itself kills the person. But we’ve also seen cases such as like DNR “Do-Not-Resuscitate” those can also be passive euthanasia. Anytime where some treatment could sustain the life for a longer but we said not to do it. That is passive euthanasia and we allow them simply to die. That gets contrasted with active euthanasia. Active euthanasia is when the doctor brings about the patient’s death by giving them a lethal treatment. So in this case, the doctor is giving them or gives the patient themselves to get themselves some type of treatment that brings about their own death. This is generally, a lot of time, considered a doctor-assisted suicide in the United States and there are only a few states that have allowed it. Federally [it] is illegal in all states, but it’s kind of like medical marijuana or legalization of marijuana. States have done it and since at least Oregeon first did it in 2007, the federal government comes than hands off and let them do it we can do it in California now I mentioned Oregon, Washington, in places in Montana, I believe on the East Coast states that have now done it as well at the time this video, but it’s not extremely popular in all the states yet because of contraversal issues. Generally the issue is well in this case we’re just allowing nature to take its course, in this case we are actually the doctor is participating in one suicide or is actually murdering them if they get it. Now in this country there’s not allowed yet where the doctor can actually give them the medicine. They can order it for them like in Oregeon they can order it for them they can bring it to them but the patient themselves have to take it. So if a patient can’t take it themselves, you can’t do this. And if you were around the 90’s or earlier, you might know of Jack Kevorkian. He is either seen as a civil rights hero or Satan, pretty much depending on how you look at it. He was a proponent of active euthanasia and was going on helping people kill themselves who wanted to die. People who had ALS and other illnesses and he actually got himself in trouble and the late 90’s, He was put in prison for 11 years because instead of you know he was setting up so the patient but one patient had ALS and he recorded it and he showed everyone on 60 minutes actually what happened. Of him actually doing the procedure and that’s what got him in trouble, and that’s what got his license revoked. But, you might remember Jack Kevorkian, here we will write his name up in case you haven’t. You definitely can do a nice Google search on him. Kervorkian, There we go a lot of interesting things there. All right let’s get to the arguments in the essays we were talking about, so the two essays we read for our class was one by James Rachels and the other by Bonnie Steinbeck. James Rachels is arguing that though in this country we have a distinction between passive and active, and active is usually seen as worse, and this is murder or this is you’re just letting them die, He thinks that distinction does not hold, Actually, he begins his essay by the discussing, saying issues in passive euthanasia where you know we always say passive is okay and active isn’t and he points to places where passive is actually mistreated and passive isn’t always the best way, route to death, he mentions Down syndrome babies that sometimes are born with a sort of defect of where their intestines are not attached to their colon I believe, and that many parents even know a simple surgery could fix this and the the Down syndrome kid could survive. If they don’t fix it they die within a matter of days. That many parents choose to have passive euthanasia in this case. They choose not to have the surgery even that would be simple. Now that’s passive euthanasia but we all know they are refusing treatment for their child and Rachels believes they’re not really doing it because of the treatment they’re doing because they don’t want a Downs syndrome child. and he believes passive euthanasia is not always great either. So don’t think that this is always good that’s always bad that’s his first point. But then his major philosophical point he wants to make is he believes that you the distinction we have in the U.S. that this is okay and this is not doesn’t actually hold. He actually claims that either we have to accept those passive and active euthanasia as morally the same okay. Or we have to say that both of them are morally wrong. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, in this case. You can’t say one is right and the other is wrong. You have to actually accept either one or the other. Now if you’re completely against all euthanasia and we have to allow patients to you know survive as long as we can we have to force the drugs in this case they’re not even allowed to do passive, if you’re that against it then this is fine. But if you think passive is okay and this isn’t, he’s gonna try to convince is that actually we have to go all the way except active as well. So let’s see how he does it and he does it with this famous Smith/Jones argument right here okay. And so now in this case we’re gonna talk about now the doctors usually, generally think in this profession have good intentions. They want to do what’s best for their patient, even look to they you know look at the the oath we have to take “do no harm” right. We want to do its best okay. This is a lot of times when people argue, “Well you’re doing harm by doing this.” But he thinks they do doctors have good intentions whether they are committing active or passive, they do. But in this case the first case we are looking at is actually talking about bad intentions. So let’s see what he what he means by this. So take a Smith and Jones. So Smith, he has a nephew, well Smith’s brother and his wife have just passed away in a terrible accident and Smith is left to take care of his nephew, the son of his brother. Now the thing in the will for his nephew as basically his nephew is guaranteed to get a lot of money once he turns 18, and the Smith can’t have access to this, now if the nephew were to die Smith get it but the nephews gonna way out live Smith and he’ll never seen his money. So Smith is kind of upset of this but he’s thinking maybe I could do something about this, and what Smith decides to do. And I’ll say the nephew is like four or five years old, The night that Smith has to take care of the nephew, that may be an accident might happen. And as this nephew, lets call him Little Johnny alright, is in the bathtub. Smith decides you know it’s like well why would he go to play with that rubber ducky you know Smiths gonna go and I just like I’m just gonna take his head and we’re just gonna hold him under water lightly. You know, he’s only five years old and will take very much very little force, and after a few minutes the kid’s gonna drown. We’ll make it look like an accident and Smith will get all the money okay. So he’s gonna do that, now bad intentions Smith, definitely the action he committed is bad and the outcome is bad as well. So we would all say no one’s gonna say Smith’s a good guy at all, this is actually a horrible thing, immoral thing. Now let’s take Jones, Jones is in the exact same situation, has a nephew, has a chance a lot of money but the nephew is going to get it before Jones and so Jones come to the same plan that when nephew little Johnny takes a bath tonight, I’m gonna just hold my hold his head down like that and let him drown and I’ll make it look like an accidental and Jones will get all the money, that’s the intention. So he goes up there with the intention to do it this time right is the Little Johnny gets ready to play with a rubber duckie Little Johnny slips up hits his head in the back of the tub and then falls in and Jones just kind of walks back like that, all right. And of course this was Johnny dies. Now the question is is Jones a morally worst person in this myth, is he worse you know just think about it Jones didn’t do anything right. Jones didn’t cause his death didn’t do anything like he intended him to die. But in the end, Little Johnny slipped up for his own. He really did nothing right and so I mean he’s Jones a better person Smith or they both pretty evil on both horrible people equally. That actually Smith and Jones have committed an action that is both equally as reprehensible. And I think Rachels believes that we all have to say that these are equally as reprehensible. Just because Jones didn’t necessarily push him down, by Jones not doing anything, Jones is actual not do anything cause the death of the kid, just like Smith by holding him down caused the death of the kid. Jones could easily stop doing that and can pick the kid up, Smith could easily lift his hand off and let the kid come to the water as well both of them have done something morally is wrong okay and none that comes worse than the other. Now how’s it supposed to work with this case? Well now let’s take a look at doctors okay. You have maybe the doctor who’s practicing passive verses the doctor who’s practicing active, both of them Rachel/Clint have the same attention this time it’s not bad intentions it’s good intentions okay. They both want what’s best for their patient, but the doctor who commits passive decides to take the medicine away or and do nothing okay like just let the patient die, or is the doctor who commits acting decides to actively with the patient’s choice of course gives them this medicine that kills them. Well let’s look at it wouldn’t they morally be the same too? They both have good intentions, the outcome is the same. In passive, yes the doctor does nothing but by doing nothing it brings about that outcome, much like we had with Jones over here. And active, the outcome is the same but the person is actively doing something and doing it much like Smith. In this case here we said there was no moral difference. Why would there be a moral difference here and so this is why Rachels believes that actually in the end because the outcome the same the intentions are the same okay. Yes the methods are different but James really believes that when you do nothing you are doing something that’s an action. To not do something is to do something okay. And just like the active, who you know you give the patient this lethal dose, the doctor who commits passive is doing something by doing nothing, which we all know brings about the death. And so what he’s trying to say is that if you have a problem with active but not passive that doesn’t make sense because in the end they are the same thing morally, there aren’t any difference. So if you’re okay with this, then you must be okay with that. Or if you’re not okay with this and you’re okay with that, then you have to rethink it can’t be okay with any of them. You either have to accept those or either because morally they are the same. Now that’s the argument in a nutshell. It’s a pretty good argument. I like this one, my class generally likes to talk about this one just because it’s such a strange example but it does make show a good point. The final thing he points out though and once we have now determined that these are morally equivalent. Then we can start looking at circumstantial and consequential evidence about different situations about which one is better. And Rachels believes that you know once we say there these are two types of treatments that we can use both are equally good but in some cases this one might be the better consequential treatment and the other case that this one might be the better consequential treatment. He points to like cases where someone is suffering, they are having you know a a something like no really you know let’s say ALS or a cancer that is eating away their body. You might have in those cases that active might be better instead of letting them suffer and experiences. Even though they might be hopped up of morphine and other things like that for care and palliative treatment, some may prefer this over that because it decreases the amount of suffering that has to happen. This also got Rachels in some hot water because he’s claimed that perhaps active euthanasia might be better in some cases of where we pull the plug like Terri Schiavo, even if she has no choice in it. We pull the plug, she starved to death for eight days before she died and is you know should we allow patients to suffer in that way or would be better thing is pull the feeding tube and give her something that killed her? Now of course we are now getting the legal means of the doctor giving it but Rachel suggests that maybe once we understand they’re both the same, maybe those consequential things should come into play that’s James Rachels. Now so you don’t run out of time here let’s look at Bonnie Steinbach and Bonnie Steinbach is argueing against James Rachel’s article here. Now the first thing you’ll see in her and her essay is she is actually with agreement on Rachel’s on some things. For example, passive euthanasia she agrees this whole thing about we mentioned about Down syndrome kids and passive euthanasia being used for the wrong reasons not the right ones, is a horrible mistreatment of what it is. But for Steinbach, it is just mind-blowing okay that Rachel’s responses -okay- passive is misuse. Well then, let’s go and just try to make even more euthanasia used for hers you think that’s the total wrong way to look at it. For her, is that we see not always passive misuse but if we allow active that’s going to be misused too and so the goal is not to allow more euthanasia but we should be decreasing it. And for her we should be actually be doing not allowing passive of the many instances as well, that we should be watching it and containing it instead of allowing it more. And then she attacks the argument here about they’re both the same or not. She thinks that really isn’t the case either and her argument is one based on intention that she believes that intentions matter in this case. Where Rachels assume that the intentions of the doctors were the exact same in this case and that’s why we could equate to his more than equivilent when they both wanted what’s best for their patient. She says that was not really the case. In fact in the case of passive, she believes the doctors intention isn’t the kill the patient. In fact it’s just to give them their right to refuse treatment, which is a right that we all have here in the United States. You can refuse treatment any time. Now that does end up bringing about their death but the doctor isn’t intending for them to die. Maybe they hope for a miracle or or they know that today a you know it’s a possibility but in their mind all they are doing right now is I’m timidly give you the right to refuse. Whereas the the doctor in active euthanasia, she thinks it’s always to kill them hands down when I give them this lethal treatment, my intention is to kill this person. It says that shows there’s a different intention between the doctors and that should be a morally relevant thing we should think about and should keep us from believing that these two are the exact same. Intentions matter she believes. Now, I will agree with her. I think intentions do matter. I mean we can take a look at lecture on cotton we can see why intentions should matter in cases of moral arguments. But I guess my counter would to be to this is to do something like Jack Kevorkian in his famous quote is there’s nothing wrong with death right and that we should whenn terminally ill have a right to die. You know, whereas we the doctor gives us the intentionally or gives us the right to refuse why couldn’t one have a right to die? Now of course yet the the intention still may be the doctor killing them and we have to look at that but should we have that right or not? I think she makes some good points but I mean that’s the question we should look at does one have a right to die when terminally ill? You know I have six months left to live its going and its going be horrible, should I have a right to take life into my own hands or not? that’s what we’re looking at here right but I do want to finish on this and just to give Bonnie Steinbach some credit, it just you know just to look at this all together there is a reading we use to do in our old class by Thomas Sullivan I came out we didn’t make us I didn’t make anyone do it but you might be interested and he ends by talking about how you know many doctors and nurses will point to a point of the claim that hey you have to just trust it they see these patients all the time and many doctors and nurses will believe that activies euthanasia is okay it’s like you don’t see the thing they go through you’ll see the things they have to do but this would be better off Thomas Sullivan’s point says maybe doctors and nurses are they worse people we should be talking to about this because they are so emotionally connected to the things going on that they can’t really make a rational and non-emotional, non-biased export our argument for the case they letting the emotions get to them and yes Thomas Sullivan, they may have good but in the end they may still be committing murder and the best people that should be looking at this are philosophers not the nurses and doctors and he ends with this famous proverb that says the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I think what we mean by is that we may have good intentions Rachels may have good intentions the doctor may have good intent to the fact that person doing it may have good intentions but in the end we still may pave the road to hell in it it still may be wrong so think about that as well and you know in the end you gotta let you decide on what you think is correct but just make sure you understand Steinbach and rachels and the difference between these two types of euthanasia and if you have any questions, pleasel let me know and I will see you next time. 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