Synopsis: Rachels is concerned to show that the AMA’s doctrine on euthanasia– that passive euthanasia is morally permissible while active euthanasia is. The moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia, or between “killing ” and The philosopher James Rachels has an argument that shows that the. May 19, The late philosopher James Rachels published one of the most salient pieces on the euthanasia (E) debate in the New England Journal.

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In that case, we might think that the doctor had a good defence against accusations of unethical behaviour. In situations for which passive euthanasia is permissible under this justification, there are no morally sound reason for prohibiting active euthanasia, and in some cases, active euthanasia is morally preferable to passive euthanasia.

Active and passive euthanasia.

There are many examples of people who have accepted eutjanasia pain for their beliefs. The distinction between passive and active euthanasia rests on the mistaken assumption that killing is worse than letting die. Active and passive euthanasia Active euthanasia Active euthanasia occurs when the medical professionals, or another person, deliberately do something that causes the patient to die. Thus suppose I wish you dead, if I act to bring about your death I am a murderer, but if I happily discover you in danger of death, and fail to act to save you, I am not acting, and therefore, ane to the doctrine, not a murderer.

Jones is delighted at his good fortune, and stands by as the child drowns.

It is not the case that for any two cases C1 and C2, where C1 and C2 are exactly alike in all respects except that in C1 there is a killing while in C2 there is a letting die, C1 is morally worse than C2. If CDE is true then passive euthanasia never produces more suffering than active euthanasia. Hence, it is a mistake to think that killing is intrinsically worse than letting die.


Active and passive euthanasia.

Smith then arranges things so that it looks like the child accidentally drowned. Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.

Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so. In law Smith is guilty an murder and Jones isn’t guilty of anything.

To accept this argument we have to agree that the best action is one the which causes the greatest happiness or perhaps the least unhappiness for the patient and perhaps for the patient’s relatives and carers too. Instead, his conclusion is perhaps best expressed as a conditional: Active and passive euthanasia. The rule that we should treat other people as we would like them to treat us also seems to support euthanasia, if we would want to be put out of our misery if we were in A’s position.

The conventional doctrine should be rejected because it leads to decisions about life and death made on irrelevant grounds.

James Rachels: “Active and Passive Euthanasia”

We can look at this situation is another way: Return to Course Home Page. A person might well not want to be killed even in this situation, if their beliefs or opinions were not against active euthanasia.

Rachels says that he can understand someone who opposes both active and passive euthanasia as immoral practices, but cannot make sense of approving of one and not the other. While the child is taking a bath one evening, Smith sneaks into the bathroom and drowns him.


The dagger in his heart killed him,” we wouldn’t think this an adequate moral argument either. The conventional doctrine would say that it is permissible for the doctor to refrain from further treatment and to allow the patient the die.

BBC – Ethics – Euthanasia: Active and passive euthanasia

The moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia, or between “killing” and “letting die”. In a case where “letting die” is immoral, killing may also be immoral. In either case, the matter is being decided on irrelevant grounds. But cases in which passive euthanasia seems permissible are cases in which continued existence is regarded as worse than death. But some people think this distinction is nonsense, since stopping treatment is a deliberate act, and so is deciding not to carry out a particular treatment.

On this page Active and passive euthanasia Acts and omissions Preferring active to passive euthanasia Page options Print this page. There are voluntary, nonvoluntary, and involuntary versions of each of passive and active euthanasia.

You might argue that we can’t compare the case of a doctor who is trying to do their best for their patient with Smith and Jones who are obvious villains. It demonstrates that some cases of letting die are at least as bad as killing. The doctor gives A a euthanaisa injection – A becomes unconscious within seconds and dies within an hour.

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