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Analysis of Philippa Foot's Article on Euthanasia

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Euthanasia as defined by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is a quiet and easy death. One may wonder, is there such a thing as a quiet and easy death? This is one point that I will discuss in my paper, however the question that my paper will answer is; should active euthanasia be legalized? First, I will look at Philippa Foot's article on Euthanasia and discuss my opinions on it. Second, I will look at James Rachel's article on active and passive euthanasia and discuss why I agree with his argument. Finally, I will conclude by saying that while the legalizing of active euthanasia would benefit many people, it would hurt too many, thus I believe that it should not be legalized.

Through Philippa Foot's article she is trying to prove that an act of euthanasia is morally permissible as long as you are doing that act for the right reasons. Foot defines euthanasia as "a matter of opting for death for the good of the one who is to die." (Foot, p. 798) I agree with Foot's definition of euthanasia more so than the dictionaries because in her definition she mentions that it's for the good of the person who is to die, which is what really makes euthanasia moral. The dictionary merely says that euthanasia is the act of dying an easy or quiet death which can very easily be an immoral act. There are four types of euthanasia that Foot describes in her article. The first is active euthanasia which is a deliberate act aimed to end a person's life. The second is passive euthanasia which is the deliberate allowing of a person to die in order to stop pain or suffering. The third is voluntary euthanasia which is the ending of a person's life in response to a request from that person. Finally, the fourth is nonvoluntary euthanasia which is the ending of a person's life where that person does not have the capacity to either request or withhold consent to do so. Foot justifies euthanasia by saying that as long as we are considering the benefits of the person involved and only the benefits of that person euthanasia can be morally accepted. I think that it's important to understand how easily a person can overlook the benefits of the patient and consider their own instead. If a child is born with a horrible disease and the only way to survive is to have an operation, which will in a sense allow the child to live, but under poor conditions, the parents have a difficult decision to make. It might be very easy to think about themselves and how raising this child would perhaps be a burden to them or a burden to society. Once again in order for euthanasia to be morally permissible they have to make to decision based on what is good for the child. This is where another crucial point comes into play. Who is to say that even though this child will grow up with severe abnormalities and discomfort that they won't find happiness? "There are many fairly severely handicapped people for whom a simple affectionate life is possible." (Foot, p.795) As you can see, the decision of ending a person's life is a very delicate and hard decision. It is however, a decision we are only allowed to make if it is passive euthanasia being considered. As of right now, active euthanasia is not permissible. We now need to discuss what would happen if active euthanasia were permissible.

As far as legalizing active euthanasia Foot thinks that we need to be careful. She doesn't exactly support the idea. She feels that euthanasia will be, first of all, abused. People who want to get rid of the elderly will simply euthanize them and for their own benefit, not the elders. Another problem with legalizing euthanasia would be that people could be too easily persuaded. "It would be hard to devise procedures that would protect people from being persuaded into giving their consent." (Foot, p. 804) There is no way of knowing if a person is giving their consent because the truly want to or because they were persuaded to do so. Finally, the last problem, according to Foot, with legalizing active euthanasia would be that it might change the social scene and in and bad way. "It might come to be expected that someone likely to need a lot of looking after should call for the doctor and demand his own death." (Foot, p. 804) I have to agree with Foot's idea's here. I think that she is correct in saying that once legalized, active euthanasia will be more than abused. People will look to euthanasia as a way out of caring for a person instead of a relief from pain, which is its initial purpose. The question we have to consider now is that if such things could go wrong with legalizing euthanasia, why would anyone want to legalize it in the first place?

James Rachels



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