Passive vs Active Euthanasia, James Rachels

Rohan Pathmanathan                                                                                                       Pathmanathan, 1

“Active and Passive Euthanasia”, by James Rachels

Active and Passive Euthanasia by James Rachels is a very interesting text. It states clear definitions and differences of the two and provides great set of arguments and examples. Let's start by first breaking the text down from top to bottom. To go further on into detail one must know the differences between "active" and "passive" euthanasia. Active Euthanasia is defined by as taking a direct action designed to kill a patient. Passive Euthanasia is deliberately withholding of treatment that could prolong patient's life, allowing the patient to die. The distinction between active vs. passive euthanasia is essentially "to kill or let die". The text focuses on the American Medical Association (AMA) doctrine's opinions on the topic as opposed by James Rachels. The AMA doctrine simply believes that active euthanasia is always forbidden however in certain situations, passive euthanasia ("letting die") is morally permissible. However, active euthanasia (doctor-assisted death) is never morally permissible. Doctors can withhold treatment in many circumstances, and does nothing wrong if the patient dies, but the doctor must never, ever "kill" the patient. Rachel's main thesis to this is that active euthanasia is not any worse than passive euthanasia. Rachels argues that active euthanasia is often more humane than passive. Once the decision to not prolong agony is made, active euthanasia is preferable to passive. Rachel's believes that the doctrine leads to decisions concerning life and death on irrelevant grounds, the distinction between killing and letting die that itself has no moral importance and that the most common argument in favor of the doctrine is invalid. We could compare and contrast the two all day long but we must first know the...