Physician-assisted suicide (PAS), also known as euthanasia, has become increasingly popular in many countries, including Australia. To maintain citizen trust in government, the government should consider some of the common issues that have a negative impact on society or are perceived differently by citizens. Even if euthanasia is a wise decision, everything must be left in the hands of the creator, who is the giver and taker of human life. Utilitarianism and deontology are the two main theories that can be used to debate PAS. In fact, the concept of utilitarianism is based on the ultimate results of an activity and whether a good or bad result has been achieved. On the other hand, deontology is focused on the assertion that one’s autonomy as a human being should be preserved given that the concept maintains their dignity as expressed by Kant’s principle of humanity (Kant 12). Irrespective of the outcome, it is necessary to avoid using people for experiments, including the PAS, given that everybody should be allowed to die on his or her own, thus complying with Kant’s principle. Therefore, the paper aims to present two theories, two points of view concerning the notion of euthanasia trying to define the better one.
Patients may suffer from a complicated ailment which leads to severe pain and a high likelihood of not recovering. However, the patients have a right to withdraw or refuse treatment even if such decision can result in death. In fact, refusing or withdrawing from treatment is based on the idea of informed consent which is one of the concepts of medicine. There have been contradicting points of view over PAS over the past, and this has even been decided in the US Supreme Court. The Vacco v. Quill case, for instance, involved resistance of the proponents who were opposing the already passed New York law which prohibited the PAS practice (Conway and Gawronski 220). The view of the supporters was that patients who 0denied euthanasia are not protected as per the Fourteen Amendment given that they are not offered the same rights as those who are on a life support and want to hasten their deaths. However, the Supreme Court rejected such point of view highlighting that refusing life-sustaining treatment ought not to be compared with assisted suicide.
Utilitarianism is an idea advocated by John Stuart Mill and is mainly based on the assertion that any action which tends to promote happiness should be considered right. Therefore, for him, PAS promotes happiness at the end given that the family members of the sick are relieved of the agony of catering for the medical expenses, yet the levels of the ailment are beyond possible recovery. The same case applies to the sick since the pain eventually ceases as they die (Conway and Gawronski 226). For Mill, happiness should be defined by the absence of pain and presence of pleasure. Moreover, if there is a possibility of attaining more freedom and happiness, it is necessary to focus on that. If the concept of utilitarianism is embraced by all in the society as a moral or ethical norm, people will consider focusing on happiness in anything that they do. In fact, happiness stands out to be the basis of morality.
The societal members will always prefer being happy, and any other activity that an individual is involved in has an ultimate result of being happy. One may focus on looking for money or amassing wealth, but without happiness, personal or family, such resources will be considered as unworthy. That is why Mill justifies his assertion on the principle of utility. Moreover, the existence of human rights is mainly meant to instill happiness and a sense of recognition. The deontological perspective under utilitarianism can be well explained from the consequentialist point of view. In this case, morality encompasses the production of acceptable consequences to an individual or the society (Conway and Gawronski 227). This means that the value of happiness ought to be maintained at the end. For instance, once an individual has opted to request for a PAS, some of the factors that ought to be taken into consideration are whether the society will be happy in the end, as well as if the pain and suffering are worth enduring.
Based on the utilitarian approach to defend the concept of euthanasia, it may justify it too much. For instance, the death of a critically ill individual through euthanasia can make a sufficient number of people be happy and increase their quality of life. This means that from the utilitarian point of view, it will be justified to practice euthanasia (Conway and Gawronski 227). Provided that the action is mainly intended to return happiness which has been lost, the death of one person will directly be advantageous given that it raises other’s happiness standards. If the wrongness or righteousness of an action is measured based on overall consequences, there is little or no protection of a particular individual against the society (majority). Such people may do whatever pleases them while seeking for happiness.
Kant has a different perspective on the issue of PAS. An individual who takes their life or acts for others violates the moral law that every person has a chance to survive, and that they should die on his or her own. Therefore, whether voluntary or not, euthanasia should be considered wrong (Kant 15). Kant perceives assisted suicide as a destruction of valuable human being just for the sake of some other wishes in the name of maintaining societal happiness. For instance, the desire to reduce or relieve the levels of misery or pain should never be granted to oneself given that in the event when such person recovers, he or she will be resourceful in the society. The respect for human life should be given special consideration as this is part of the principle of humanity.
It is necessary to seek consent from the sick before making a decision on euthanasia. In fact, it should be noted that all, ill person and family members, are affected making it necessary for both parties to be involved in making such decisions. The concept draws in the principle of humanity in which for the case of Kant, we should not focus on the truth as a pathway for attaining other goals, but just for maintaining our moral obligations (Kant 15). Therefore, the concept of euthanasia should never be practiced in the society and the members should be given a chance to survive until they die on their own.
Based on the two points of view, the pragmatic approach and Kant’s theory, two branches of deontology have been vividly exposed. However, based on one’s perspective, it may or may not be advisable to practice euthanasia. The right to life, as well as liberty and natural law, should be internalized while making such decisions. If voluntary euthanasia is forbidden, then the society will be forced to comply with one’s ailment and pain, even if this can be devastating based on the complexity of the disease. Under the idea of personal responsibility, it is my wish to remain neutral on the issue and ensure that I have accomplished the necessary processes that can enable me to stand firm and defend the protection of human life and the need for having united and peaceful cohesion in the society (Kant 16). Therefore, based on the two theories, I do prefer Kant’s assertion that human life is valuable irrespective of whether he or she is critically ill or not. People should be allowed to die on their own instead of advocating for euthanasia in the society.
The impact of my position on the issues of gender, race, and class may not be substantial given that the society is yet to practice the idea of euthanasia entirely. As a member of the community, I consider it necessary to be socially responsible by contributing positively to the community in various ways, not only in terms of finances but also in moral and ideological support. Therefore, I could urge the organization to ensure that the idea of euthanasia has been given a critical look. An analysis should be done from different perspectives, such as the pragmatic approach or Kant’s theory (Kant 22). Through this, it will be possible for the society to focus on embracing diversity and assisting the needy and not merely opting for euthanasia instead of seeking better intervention mechanisms. All in all, the community should embrace Kant’s principle of humanity given that it surpasses that of utilitarianism. Moreover, every member of the community ought to be given a chance to survive irrespective of his or her medical condition.
Conway, Paul, and Bertram Gawronski. “Deontological and utilitarian inclinations in moral decision making: a process dissociation approach.” Journal of personality and social psychology 104.2 (2013): 216-240.
Kant, Immanuel. Fundamental principles of the metaphysics of morals. Courier Corporation, 2012.