Ethics 5 | English homework help

Discussion post 1

Though it hasn’t always been the case, there is now a well-recognized right of patients to refuse medical treatment. This includes treatments that the patient thinks are too risky, but also treatments they oppose for any other reason they might have. It includes also the right to stop treatment, because patients must feel free to withdraw existing treatments or else they might refrain from starting a treatment in the first place for fear that they won’t be allowed to change their mind later.

A major issue for us, as we consider healthcare in end-of-life situations, is whether we should see euthanasia and assisted suicide as ethically comparable to respecting patient wishes to stop/refuse treatment even when doing so means they’lll die when they could have lived by continuing treatment.

So the question is: are passive euthanasia (letting a patient die when they request to stop treatment) and active euthanasia (taking steps to kill a patient when they request it) ethically the same? The conventional doctrine on this question is No, they are ethically different. But James Rachels and other ethicists challenge this. What do you think?


reading questions—

answer questions based on articles below and attachments

What does James Rachels identify as conventional wisdom (or the standard view) of the ethics of passive and active euthanasia? Does Rachels himself agree with this?

2. What sort of moral lesson is Rachels trying to draw from his hypothetical Smith-Jones scenario? 

3. Why might someone see withdrawing treatment as ethically different from withholding treatment? Why might someone see withdrawing and withholding treatment as ethically equivalent?

4. Which of the principles of bioethics would you say is most central to Dax Cowart’s position on the right to refuse treatment? Briefly explain.

5. Identify the eligibility requirements for physician assisted suicide under the Death with Dignity Act.

6. Do you have any ethical criticisms or concerns about the Death with Dignity Act? Would you vote to adopt it as the law in Illinois – why or why not?

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