Transcription 1 [This essay originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2nd edition, ed. Routledge,vol. It seems obvious to common sense that it is worse. We allow people to die, for example, when we fail to contribute money to famine-relief efforts; but even if we feel somewhat guilty, we do not consider ourselves murderers.
What Rachels overlooks is that the thought experiments they rely upon to demonstrate this equivalence actually suggest that many readers had earlier underestimated the wrongness of allowing someone to die rather than overestimated the wrongness of killing. So if Rachels is correct about killing and letting die, there are actually two lessons to be learned by those who oppose active euthanasia.
The first lesson which Rachels seeks to inculcate, is that active euthanasia cannot be distinguished from passive euthanasia, on the grounds that the first of each pair involve a killing and the latter just allowing death.
But the second lesson, one that Rachels would not have liked if they had noticed it, is that passive euthanasia is actually worse than had previously been thought. Thus those readers who had opposed active euthanasia but not passive euthanasia, when forced to treat these consistently in light of the moral equivalence of killing and letting die, have more reason to change their permissive attitude to passive euthanasia than to accept active euthanasia.
I am just going to assume for the sake of argument that killing and letting die are morally equivalent. I do not actually believe that these are generally morally equivalent, but that is not relevant to my thesis.
Rather, it is the use Equivalence thesis rachels this conclusion as a premise in a further argument that I will question. Rachels asks his readers to imagine that two men stand to inherit if their respective six-year-old cousins die. One goes up to the bathroom in which the youngster is bathing and drowns Equivalence thesis rachels by holding his head under the water.
He is obviously a horrible person. The evil cousin just stands next to the tub and watches the life pass out of his young cousin. He easily could have pulled the child out but chose not to in order to acquire the inheritance. Rachels expects that it will be obvious to the reader that the two older cousins are equally horrible.
Rachels and other philosophers who champion the moral equivalence of killing and letting die offer the following diagnosis of why this is not more widely recognized. Intentional killing, on the other hand, aims at the death of the victim.
And the death could generally have been avoided without the killer taking dangerous or time consuming or financially draining steps. It is such factors that make killing appear worse than letting die. To counteract such tendencies and to reveal the moral equivalence of killing and letting die, thought experiments need to be constructed which hold constant all other morally relevant features except that one case involves a killing and the other allowing death.
Rachels is not the first to pursue a strategy of designing such thought experiments. Nor has such a strategy been restricted to the debate about active and passive euthanasia. A few years earlier, Judith Thomson relied upon a similar approach in her defense of abortion, in which she proposed the analogy of disconnecting a violinist from life support.
She imagines two evil men who want their wives dead.
The first poisons his wife. The second stands by with the antidote in hand after his wife accidentally poisons herself. Thomson just assumes that the inconsistency will be resolved in the pro-choice manner. However, an argument needs to be made why the pro-lifers should treat fetuses like the violinist, rather than the converse.
If the cases are alike in all their other morally relevant features, an explanation must be offered of why our judgment is distorted in the one case and not the other. I have offered such an argument elsewhere.
Here I just want to suggest that the thought experiments revealing the moral equivalence of killing and letting die are best analyzed as suggesting that those who had thought otherwise were underestimating the badness of letting someone die rather than overestimating the evil of killing a person.
Assuming that the thought experiments have indeed shown that killing is morally equivalent to letting someone die, it does not follow that those who earlier opposed active euthanasia but accepted passive euthanasia should drop their objection to active euthanasia. Why is it so often assumed that they should?
I would conjecture that those leading such discussions were already in favor of both active and passive euthanasia. That could be the only consideration keeping decent, sensitive and reasonable people from being convinced that both active and passive euthanasia were acceptable.
But if we are to assume that the opponents of active euthanasia were mistaken about killing and letting die, the question that should be asked is that when they discover the equivalence, do they have a reason for inferring that passive euthanasia was worse than they had thought or that active euthanasia was not as bad as they had believed?
One or the other must be true if they were earlier wrong not to recognize as morally equivalent those cases in which the only difference between two scenarios was that one involved killing and the other letting die.
Since they generally hope that the individual can be saved, it is accurate to say that people can deliberately let others die without wanting them to die. On the other hand, intentionally killing someone entails that the killers wanted the victim dead.
Instead, they came to understand letting someone die as worse than they had previously. The mitigating factors found in the standard cases of allowing death were not present in the bath tub cases. Furthermore, the doctor engaging in passive euthanasia wants the patient to die, thus distinguishing the act from the most cases of allowing death e.
According to Rachels, if killing and letting die are morally equivalent, we should endorse active euthanasia if we approve of passive euthanasia. He stresses that the humane concerns which justify passive euthanasia should also justify the active form because the patients receiving a lethal injection can usually be put out of their misery more quickly than if food, water and medicine were withdrawn.
Rachels even argues that such humane considerations suggest that active euthanasia would even be preferable to passive in such circumstances.May 06, · Earnest Van Den Haag “A Defense of the Death Penalty,” in James Rachels, ed.
The Right Thing To Do 3rd Ed. (Boston: McGraw Hill, ): the primary thesis of the book is that the death sentence and torture are both unjust and futile. For there to be an equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a.
Aquinas Natural Law Theory Descriptive law: states a regularity in nature that explains of events that follow under it (E=MC2) Where Prescriptive laws: express general norms and r.
The relationship between a patient and a physician by its special nature makes the case different and exceptional in respect to any equivalence thesis. The distinction between killing and letting die as a distinction without any difference is very extraneous to the medical profession.
REASONING ABOUT KILLING AND LETTING DIE REASONING ABOUT KILLING AND LETTING DIE Rachels, James The Equivalence Thesis says that there is no morally important difference between killing and letting die; if one is permissible (or objectionable), then so is the other,and to the samedegree.
As it stands, this is not . James Rachels; James Robb (philosopher) James Robert Brown; James Tully (philosopher) KK thesis; Klaus Klostermaier; Klement Jug; Knight of faith; Knightly Virtues; Know thyself; Knower; Logical equivalence; Logical extreme; Logical form; Logical graph; Logical harmony; Logical holism;.
The Equivalence Thesis: It is neither more, nor less, On this account, killing is pro tanto wrong because it harms the person who is killed. 12 As James Rachels puts it: “If we should not kill, it is because in killing we are harming someone.