Saturday, April 7, 2012


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The PBS show, Frontline, defines euthanasia as the taking of a a life as an act of mercy. According to the show, sixy-three percent of america believes euthanasia should be legal. A reason why most people would consider euthanasia is the relief that they will have when they know that they will not hae to endure any suffering from their terminal illness. Knowing that you will not have to experience the pain from an illness will make it easier to cope with death. The show particularly discusses two cases of a young woman suffering from anorexia and a defective infant with a split penis.

In the case of the young woman, twenty-five year old Maria, was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of ten. She relied on feeding tubes to stay alive and a good quality of life did not seam available for her in the future. At age twenty-six, she weighed a mere forty-two pounds. Now, Maria wanted to finally die and end the suffering she has endured for the last fifteen years of her life. Accepting the lethal injection prescribed by her physician, Dr. Kors, she would finally end the terminal illness.

The second case is of an infant born with a hole in the stomach exposing the intestines and an irreparable sexual organ defect known as split penis. The infant would need surgery to survive, but the sexual organ would have to be changed from male to female. With the help of hormone therapy, the infant would be raised as a female rather than a male. Dr. Molinar, the infants physician, along with the infants parents decided not to operate on the child and allow him to die. It could not be guaranteed, but it could be assued that a minimal quality of life was expected for the infant.

In these two cases, Maria received active euthanasia, and the infant received passive euthanasia. Maria decided to end her life with a lethal injection. Utilitarianims is committed to the view that an action is right only if it maximizes the good for everyone affected by the action(155). Even though everyone who was close to Maria would miss her, they all knew as well as Maria that her life would not get any better, and after battling with anoerexia for fifteen years, she has had enough. Her loved ones probably did not want her to suffer anymore, so the action Maria took to end her life maximixed the good for everyone. To oppose Marias decision would allow her to continue suffering with her illness.

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Dr. Molinar decided not to operate on the infant, and the infant eventually died. The action of not operating to save the life of the infant was performed by the physician. The utilatrian aspect of this case would want to maximise the good and minimize the bad. The good for everyone affected by the action would be the parents and the physician, and after concluding that a good quality of life for the infant was minimal, allowing the child to die would be the best for the infant. Opposing this decision would make the physician operate on the infant and have him be raised as a female.

Persons, according to Kant, derive their dignity from two essential human capacities (1) unique ability of freedom of choice, and () the distinctive characteristic of rationality(187). Maria was able to choose the way she wanted to die and when she wanted to die. Her action was not decided by any emotions, passions, or inclinations, but by the simple reason that ther life was not going to get any better and her pain and suffering were not going to go away. In the case of the infant, the physician took it upon himself to rationally decide not to allow the child to live. The infant could not choose for himself to have the operation or to be allowed to die. The physician and the parents of the infant chose the action for the infant. Not wanting to raise a child with these many medical complications could have affected the parents decision to allow the child to die.

I believe that Marias case was justified because she had made the decision by herself and had already experienced what the rest of her life would be like. She lived for fifteen years with her anorexia and did not want to live any more with pain. She had lived a life, not a long life, but consequently a meaningful life like most everyone else.

In the case of the infant, I believe the action of allowing the infant to die was affected by some sort of emotions or the fact of trying to cope with such a difficult life that would lay ahead of the infant and the parents. Obviously, the infant could not make any decision for himself, but I believe the actions taken by the physician and the parents were not as justified as the action taken by Maria. In one case, a long life of suffering was ended, and in another case, a life was ended before any possible physical or mental suffering could be endured. In both cases, the good was maximized for everyone who was affected by the action, but reason was not the only factore that played a role in the decision making process.

work cited

Loofbourrow, Richard C. Puzzles Principles & Philosophers Third Edition. New York

The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Primis Custon Publishing, 1.

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