David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
In Lawrence C. Becker Mary Becker & Charlotte Becker (eds.), Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2nd edition. Routledge (2001)
Is it worse to kill someone than to let someone die? 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. Nor do we feel like accessories to murder when we fail to give blood, sign an organ-donor card, or do any of the other things that could save lives. Common sense tells us that, while we may not kill people, our duty to give them aid is much more limited. Some philosophers, however, have argued that common sense is wrong about this. They have defended the Equivalence Thesis, which says that killing and letting die are equally bad. This is a more specific version of the idea that there is no moral difference between making something happen and allowing it to happen. The Equivalence Thesis is a radical conception that would require changes in our ordinary moral beliefs. If it is true, then obviously our duty to give aid is much stronger than we commonly assume. But our views about other matters, such as euthanasia, will also be affected. Many people believe that “passive euthanasia”--allowing terminal patients to die, rather than pointlessly prolonging their lives--is sometimes permissible; but they also believe that killing patients is always wrong. If the Equivalence Thesis is true, this combination of beliefs is inconsistent. The idea behind the Equivalence Thesis is not that every individual case of letting die is equally as bad as every individual case of killing. Obviously, if we compare an ordinary murder--say, a man killing his wife out of jealousy--with the actions of a physician who humanely permits a suffering patient to die, the murder is much worse. Rather, the idea is that the difference between killing and letting die does not itself make a difference to the moral assessment of the actions. Other factors may still be important.
|Keywords||Euthanasia Active and Passive Euthanasia Mercy Killing Killing and Letting Die The Value of Life The Equivalence Thesis Medical Ethics Bioethics|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
William J. Fitzpatrick (2006). The Intend/Foresee Distinction and the Problem of “Closeness”. Philosophical Studies 128 (3):585 - 617.
William J. FitzPatrick (2012). The Doctrine of Double Effect: Intention and Permissibility. Philosophy Compass 7 (3):183-196.
Similar books and articles
Craig Paterson (2000). On "Killing" Versus "Letting Die" in Clinical Practice: Mere Sophistry With Words? Journal of Nursing Law 6 (4):25-44.
D. N. Husak (1979). Killing, Letting Die and Euthanasia. Journal of Medical Ethics 5 (4):200-202.
David Shaw (2007). The Body as Unwarranted Life Support: A New Perspective on Euthanasia. Journal of Medical Ethics 33 (9):519-521.
Gary M. Atkinson (1983). Ambiguities in 'Killing' and 'Letting Die'. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 8 (2):159-168.
R. Gillon (1988). Euthanasia, Withholding Life-Prolonging Treatment, and Moral Differences Between Killing and Letting Die. Journal of Medical Ethics 14 (3):115-117.
Felicitas Kraemer (2013). Ontology or Phenomenology? How the Lvad Challenges the Euthanasia Debate. Bioethics 27 (3):140-150.
H. V. McLachlan (2008). The Ethics of Killing and Letting Die: Active and Passive Euthanasia. Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (8):636-638.
Matthew Hanser (1995). Why Are Killing and Letting Die Wrong? Philosophy and Public Affairs 24 (3):175–201.
Helen Frowe (forthcoming). Killing John to Save Mary: A Defence of the Distinction Between Killing and Letting Die. In J. Campbell, M. O’Rourke & H. Silverstein (eds.), Action, Ethics and Responsibility. MIT Press.
Joachim Asscher (2008). The Moral Distinction Between Killing and Letting Die in Medical Cases. Bioethics 22 (5):278–285.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads265 ( #2,023 of 1,410,540 )
Recent downloads (6 months)15 ( #15,295 of 1,410,540 )
How can I increase my downloads?