The Case for Mercy-Killing Essay

The Case for Mercy-Killing Essay

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Two patients share a hospital room. By miraculous circumstance, they are both suffering identical cases of late stage terminal cancer, and both have expressed firmly that they don’t want their lives to be artificially extended. Patient A has contracted a hospital-borne infection, and will die quickly if this infection is not treated. This being the case, the doctors decide to take no action, allowing Patient A to die from the infection. This raises the question: what does this choice imply for Patient B? Should he be allowed to choose active euthanasia to combat his suffering? I will argue that there is no moral distinction between letting Patient A die and “killing” Patient B. I will do so by looking at each patient’s circumstances individually, then applying arguments about euthanasia to their cases, and ultimately bringing them back together to consider a verdict. While some may argue that there is a difference between killing Patient B and letting Patient A die, I assert that any such claims are based in irrelevant reasoning.
First, let’s consider the reasoning behind the patients choosing to forego extraordinary treatment for their cancer. They have decided, as Beauchamp would put it, that refusing to prolong their lives in the face of pain and suffering “neither harms nor wrongs [them] and may provide a benefit” (Beauchamp, 76). They “intend to quit life because of its bleak possibilities” (Beauchamp, 77). The doctor readily complies with their wishes out of moral, legal, and professional obligation. A choice has been made to let both patients die, as a response to their “competent and authoritative refusal of treatment” (Beauchamp 74).
In Patient A’s case, he was lucky enough (in the most morbid way possible) to...


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...es out of mercy. Beauchamp puts it eloquently when he says “From a moral point of view, causing a person’s death is wrong when it is wrong not because the death is intended or because it is caused, but because an unjustified harm or loss to the person occurs” (Beauchamp, 76).
The objection that killing Patient B is worse than allowing Patient A to die does not survive, because such a claim is based on the assumption that a killing would be unjust. The doctor and the patients have decided that death is preferable to life, and there is no injustice involved in any possible outcome from there on out. Squeamishness about the doctor being responsible for killing Patient B, directly, has no place in the discussion, because by the time the discussion is taking place, that would be like being squeamish over the doctor prescribing morphine to reduce a patient’s suffering.

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