Running head: ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE EUTHANASIA 1
Applying an Ethical Theory
April 15, 2019
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE EUTHANASIA 2
Active vs. Passive Euthanasia
The main ethical question surrounding the topic of euthanasia is whether it is morally
right or wrong to end the life of a person, regardless of the complexity of the situation. The topic
about euthanasia has been and continues to raise many questions as to whether its practice should
continue or stop, and whether it is ethically acceptable, as far as ethics and morals are concerned.
This has caused divisive controversy between its proponents and opponents. Those that back it
up have given out several reasons to explain why they support euthanasia, and so have its
Euthanasia, also sometimes called good death or mercy killing, refers to the practice
of deliberately ending the life of an individual, so that he or she is relieved from suffering and
pain caused by a terminal illness (Stolberg, 2007). Euthanasia can also be defined as killing with
intent, by omitting the life of an individual whose life is perceived to be no longer worth living.
Many societies across the world have had and continue to have divisive controversy over the
ethical, legal and moral issues associated with the practice. Euthanasia can be categorized into
different types, including voluntary, involuntary or non-voluntary. Other classifications of
Euthanasia include active and passive types. The main analysis of the paper is based on the
question of whether euthanasia should be allowed to be practiced or be legally prohibited. This
can be determined through a review of its pros and cons, as well as the ethical and moral issues
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE EUTHANASIA 3
with which it is associated. The following paragraphs give a detailed explanation of the different
classification of euthanasia.
Active euthanasia refers to the process of to end the life of a
person (McLachlan, 2008). This is normally done through the administration of lethal injection
into the body of an individual. It is the most arguable means of euthanasia. On the other hand,
passive euthanasia refers to the process of depriving an individual a chance to live by
withholding the resources that are necessary to support the persons life such as medicine.
Explanation of the Ethical Theory
The ethical theory that brings out a logical argument on the issue of euthanasia is the
virtue ethics. Basically, a virtue refers to the good traits that a person possesses. Therefore, virtue
ethics describe the upright principles that people are supposed to use while making important
decisions in life, to enable them do the right thing. The virtue ethics philosophy was crafted by
Aristotle, with the aim of promoting moral way of life in the society, among the people. A good
example of an excellent virtue that a moral person needs to have is honesty. However, honesty is
not only gauged through the practice of open dealings with other people, or in a given
transaction, because it is a good policy or because of the fear of getting caught. Instead, an
honest person recognizes that lying is wrong, regardless of the situation, and would, therefore,
always stick to telling the truth. There are few people who are virtuous because it is a rare
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE EUTHANASIA 4
A virtue can be inborn, or it can be acquired through practice. This means that some
people are naturally born honest and they spend almost all of their lives not being able to easily
tell a lie. On the other hand, other people learn to be virtuous through practice. For instance, one
can practice telling the truth simply by changing his or her mindset and behavior, and following
strict principles or morality. Once it becomes a habit, the virtue sticks in them, and they develop
moral and honorable characters. This idea is supported by Aristotle who asserts that people can
hone virtuous habits, and by so doing, they are more likely to make the right decisions in
difficult situations. In this case, virtue ethics can be applied in providing reasonable solutions to
the debate about whether euthanasia is morally right or wrong. Examples of virtues include
honesty, grace, loyalty, humility, respect, prudence, forgiveness, kindness, gratitude, patience,
tact and more (Lafollette, 2002). These virtues enable a person to make moral decisions that are
kind to any person and therefore oppose the practice of euthanasia because it is not the obligation
of human beings to decide who lives and who dies, but Gods.
Application of the Ethical Theory
Euthanasia is mainly done in cases where a patient is suffering from a terminal illness and
is experiencing a lot of pain. Instead of suffering with prolonged pain which will ultimately lead
to death, some people argue that it is better to take the life of the patient.
The following points are some of the points that apply the virtue ethics to oppose euthanasia.
There are many methods of ensuring that the patient does not suffer from pain such as the
use of hospices and palliative care. Almost all types of pains can be relieved.
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE EUTHANASIA 5
Distinguishing between passive and active euthanasia has a moral significance.
The sanctity of life that the society acknowledges and respects can be weakened by
It can also become a of treating patients with terminal illness.
Legalizing euthanasia also damages the commitment and obligation of the doctors that
require them to save lives.
It can encourage immoral behaviors, such as family members killing their aged parents
in order to claim their property.
It is not up to human beings to decide who lives and who dies, not even to oneself.
Additionally, even the terminally still have a chance to survive for a very long time, as
God has before and can work miracles.
Permitting euthanasia discourages the commitment for the investigation for possible cure
of terminal infections (Lafollette, 2002).
In my opinion, the arguments against euthanasia hold water more than those in support
for it. In fact, euthanasia does not really solve any problem, looking at the matter keenly. For
instance, the claim that it helps patients from prolonged pain is refutable, because any pain can
be relieved using effective pain killers. For those that allege that it is a burden to the caretakers
can also consider only stopping the active medication, and let the patient die a natural death.
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE EUTHANASIA 6
From the above arguments for and against euthanasia, one can conclude that the practice
is unethical and also immoral and should therefore not be permitted. It is important when the
society maintains the sanctity of life, than when it loses it. The world should not slip down to a
point where taking away an individuals life matters no more. Above all, the decision about when
human life should be ended lies only with God and not any man.
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE EUTHANASIA 7
McLachlan, H. V. (2008). The ethics of killing and letting die: active and passive
euthanasia. Journal of Medical Ethics, 34(8), 636-638.
Lafollette, H. (2002). Ethics in Practice: An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell.
Stolberg, M. (2007). Active Euthanasia in Pre-Modern Society: Learned Debates and Popular
Practices. Social History of Medicine.
Thames, B. (2018). How should one live? An introduction to ethics and moral
reasoning (3rd ed.). Retrieved from
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