Anonymous said: You wrote an essay on Kant and euthanasia ? OOOOhhh interesting! May I read it? :D
I’m flattered by your interest, it’s a topic I’m fascinated by. It was, however, an essay I wrote in an exam, so I no longer have a copy of it, but if you’re interested, here are some notes I made before the exam:
The quality of a person’s life is a big focus of the UN declaration of human rights, a charter which, to many people, is a far more important source of ethical guidance that the Bible. Article 5 of the UN declaration of human rights says “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” It is argued by some that to prolong s person’s life against their wishes is to subject them to degrading treatment and, therefore, to deny them of their human rights.
By following this logic, one could argue that if a person’s suffering were cruel or degrading, euthanasia should be allowed. Kant however took a more deontological approach to ethics. He believed that moral knowledge is gained through reason alone, so must be a priori. For Kant, the outcome of an action is irrelevant to whether or not it is moral as we must act out of duty alone. Kant argued that humans are subject to a categorical imperative of self-preservation. Not committing suicide is, according to Kant, “the first, though not the principle, duty of a human”.
Kant also believed in universal maxims. This means that if you were you assist the suicide of one person, you must assist the suicide of every person, regardless of their wishes.
The fact that Kant’s ethics are universal makes his theories appealing to many. His views are also impartial which may make them more practical, particularly for medical practitioners who would need to consider the morality of euthanasia. The emphasis on rationality and consistency are also key strengths of Kantian ethics.
However, there are problems with the universalisability of Kantian ethics. One difficulty is that it can be difficult to ascertain whether two different but similar dilemmas should have the same maxim. Kant spoke explicitly against suicide, but not against euthanasia. It is, therefore left to interpretation whether euthanasia should be covered by the same maxim as suicide.
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