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8/15/2017 12:38 am  #11


Re: Euthanasia for organ donation

nojoum wrote:

In the case of euthanasia, I would say no offense is committed. The only offenses that might be committed are minor offenses to your family and the society. However, if you are terminally ill, you are probably far from the suitable shape to serve your family and society.

I see your point. One could argue, I think, that this is assuming that the principle that "the deliberate taking of innocent human life is intrinsically evil" is not, after all, intrinsically evil. That is, the deliberate taking of innocent human life can be justified (consequentialism) if it involves, to use your example, a terminally ill patient who isn't suited to serve society or family. But I think, however, this just brings us back to the consent principle which I, and ethicists in general, aren't comfortable with. Because the difference between euthanizing a terminally ill person who didn't ask to be euthanized, and euthanizing a terminally ill person who asked to be euthanized, is consent. The former gives no consent, the latter does.

Like you mentioned, it seems like in some cases the deliberate taking of innocent human life can never be justified no matter how positive the consequences are. But in others, it seems justified given the positive consequences. So, we could say, the difference between a eugenics holocaust (where we kill a minority to greatly serve the vast majority in the present and future generations) and medical euthanasia (where we kill the patient to achieve physical and mental pain alleviation) is that the latter case respects the autonomy of the individual. How? Because we essentially ask for their permission before killing them. But, again, what it really comes down to is individual consent. If we admit that merely being terminally ill or disabled doesn't justify the killing of innocent human life, then there has to be an additional factor that does justify it. In the case of euthanasia it seems clear that many would appeal to this consent principle. But, as mentioned earlier, the consent principle is just absurd. 

Someone could argue, however, that the use of the consent principle has to be applied only in specific places--but this just elicits the question "how do we determine when to use the consent principle?" Well, at least in the case of euthanasia, we apply it when the patient is terminally ill or disabled and, therefore, can't really benefit family or society. It is only then that we need the additional factor of consent to justify the deliberate taking of innocent human life. One might argue that in order to justify the deliberate taking of innocent human life (J) you need to have three active necessary conditions: physical/mental suffering (S), little to no familial and societal utility (NU), and consent (C). None of these conditions are sufficient on their own to justify euthanasia, but they each serve a necessary part in a sufficient whole:

≠ J
NU ≠ J
C ≠ J

S + NU ≠ J
S + C ≠ J
NU + C ≠ J

S + NU + C = J

I would love to hear any arguments against this formulation.

nojoum wrote:

I think through the example we somehow recovered two standards to regulate consequentialism, necessity (or in another words the choices available) and value. We need to be extremely careful and correctly evaluate the gravity of situation, the possible choices, and how much value we would recover by resorting to consequentialism. I think to abuse consequentialism in every small case is a recipe for disaster.

My only issue with the idea that consequentialism should be applied only out of necessity, that is, only when there are no better alternatives, just seems false. For, even if there were no better alternatives to purify the gene pool, surely it would still be wrong and unjustified to kill those people. I'm also unsure how one would gauge the value of someone's life. If someone has a terminal illness but decides to power through it, not opting for immediate death, does their willingness to power through make their life genuinely more valuable than the person with the same condition who doesn't want to power through? In this case, have we circled back to the consent principle? Is someone's intrinsic worth relative to their self-worth? 

I'm a newbie too.

 

8/17/2017 7:12 am  #12


Re: Euthanasia for organ donation

RomanJoe wrote:

I see your point. One could argue, I think, that this is assuming that the principle that "the deliberate taking of innocent human life is intrinsically evil" is not, after all, intrinsically evil. That is, the deliberate taking of innocent human life can be justified (consequentialism) if it involves, to use your example, a terminally ill patient who isn't suited to serve society or family. But I think, however, this just brings us back to the consent principle which I, and ethicists in general, aren't comfortable with. Because the difference between euthanizing a terminally ill person who didn't ask to be euthanized, and euthanizing a terminally ill person who asked to be euthanized, is consent. The former gives no consent, the latter does.

I’m not sure why you are not satisfied with giving consent. Could you elaborate why you find consent unconvincing? To me it seems enough. When you are taking someone’s life while ignoring their consent, you are violating their right to life (you are taking everything from them) which is a great harm. On the other hand, when someone is giving consent, they are giving up their life and thus It is permitted for them to end their life (or having someone who wants to assist them in suicide). Therefore, for me, the difference between forced to have euthanasia and willingly have euthanasia is great one and it does not seem to me that the consent principle is absurd.
 

RomanJoe wrote:

My only issue with the idea that consequentialism should be applied only out of necessity, that is, only when there are no better alternatives, just seems false. For, even if there were no better alternatives to purify the gene pool, surely it would still be wrong and unjustified to kill those people. I'm also unsure how one would gauge the value of someone's life. If someone has a terminal illness but decides to power through it, not opting for immediate death, does their willingness to power through make their life genuinely more valuable than the person with the same condition who doesn't want to power through? In this case, have we circled back to the consent principle? Is someone's intrinsic worth relative to their self-worth? 


I think there is some misunderstanding here and it is probably because my choice of words was poor. What I was trying to say is that once we established that a consequentialist cause is valuable, we have to look at the choices available at reaching that goal. However, it must be also noted the way to achieve that cause, also affects how valuable that cause is. In the case of purifying the gene pool the goal does not even seem to be valuable when resorting to any evil means (killing the disabled people, preventing them from marriage, preventing them from having children). I think we should somehow give a priority to the value of the cause. I’m not sure how I can formulate my thoughts, but I hope you understood what I meant. In the case of your example (one deciding to power through and one deciding to end his his life) as I mentioned before, consent principle seems to be the solution even though we are not sure when actually one has the authority to give up his life.

Note: I agree with your formulation

 

Last edited by nojoum (8/19/2017 6:07 am)

 

8/21/2017 4:08 pm  #13


Re: Euthanasia for organ donation

Sorry for the late reply. I've had some pretty serious real life issues that needed to be dealt with. 
Here's the issue, autonomy and consent are always subordinate to the human goods. That is, the mere fact that an action is autonomous and therefore consensual (that was redundant--I'm just going to collapse consent and autonomy into the single term autonomy) does not mean that that action is morally justified. A masochist who freely exercises his autonomy by allowing himself to be horribly tortured, is doing something wrong, and the mere fact that his willingness to be tortured is an autonomous action doesn't justify said action.  David Oderberg provides an interesting illustration in his Applied Ethics. Imagine a person comes up to you and wants you to inject him with heroine because he is physically incapable of doing so himself. He tells you that he is freely giving up his right to be healthy, he wants to abandon it and become a perpetual heroine addicts (for starters at least). Many would balk at this--but why? Well, because we understand that the mere fact that an action is autonomous (free and consensual) does not justify that action. Why? Because autonomy isn't about pure self-determination of the will, rather, the proper understanding of autonomy (within an ethical framework) is always placed within the strictures of a higher morality--autonomy is subject to the human goods. 

So, for instance, the will can pursue various human goods like health. Now there are multiple ways this good can be pursued (annual check ups, daily exercise, eating properly, decent hygiene and cleanliness), but every way must aim at the human good. If one exercises their will (i.e. their autonomy) in a way that degrades, infringes upon, or abandons a human good, then such and action is deemed morally wrong. Again, the wannabe heroine addict is indeed exercising his autonomy, he is indeed freely choosing to disparage the human good of health, but his mere exercise of autonomy doesn't justify the action. Likewise, a man who freely sells himself into slavery--and therefore willingly allows his human dignity and liberty to be infringed--is doing something wrong, and the mere fact that he made an autonomous decision doesn't justify this action. Why? Because he is exercising autonomy in a way that isn't directed towards the human goods, rather, he is exercising his autonomy in a way contrary to the human goods. 

In brief, the mere fact that an action is autonomous, doesn't make that action morally right. Rather, every autonomous action is only judged morally right if it is directed towards the human good, rather than contrary to the human good. This is pretty much common knowledge, and both the pro and anti euthanasia camps agree on this. So one can't make the case for euthanasia by just appealing to fact that it is an autonomous (free and consensual) action/choice, because autonomy itself is constrained by the human good. This is why I think it is, in the words of Oderberg, an "ethical red herring" to suggest that autonomy is the core problem with the euthanasia issue. 
Rather, the real issue is this: Can there be good reasons for infringing upon one's right to life, that is, the human good of life itself?

The anti-euthanasia advocates would answer "no," because, though autonomous (at least with voluntary euthanasia), euthanasia goes against the most fundamental human good, the good that grounds all other human goods, the good of sheer human existence, that is, life. So, if autonomous actions are judged to be morally right or wrong by whether or not they are directed towards or contrary to the human good, then euthanasia should be seen as morally wrong since it acts contrary to the most basic human good. 

The euthanasia advocates will hold, however, that there is a point where life is no longer worth living, that is, when the quality of life is poor enough that the life itself is no longer deemed a human goodIn fact bare life itself may become a sort of evil that should be stopped. The issue with this, for me, is that many who use "quality of life" arguments in favor of euthanasia, ignore the notion of the intrinsic value of human beings, seeing the value of one's life as solely determined by its instrumental value. For instance, an elderly man who has lost function of his legs, needs to be fed, and is dying on a hospital bed, has very little instrumental valueThat is, he can't actively pursue human goods. But if instrumental value (the ability to actively pursue human goods) was the sole arbiter of human value, then individuals like handicapped persons, mentally challenged persons, infants, even toddlers, who have very littler instrumental value, would consequently have very little human value. So if instrumental value was the only way we judged the value or worth of other human beings' lives, then we would have to admit that--say--some of the mentally challenged would be less valuable than the non-mentally challenged who can actively pursue human goods. 

Now one may object and say that even if the handicapped, infants, or the mentally challenged don't actively pursue human goods (having little to no instrumental value) they at least have the capacity to pursue human goods. In the case of the infant, the immature human has no instrumental value, but, given time and nutrition it will be able to pursue human goods. The handicapped and mentally challenged, the objector might go on to say, also have the capacity to pursue human goods, it's just that this capacity is stunted by disability, but if the disability wasn't in the way, naturally, they would be able to actively pursue the goods. But this is exactly the point the anti-euthanasia proponents are making--it is not solely instrumental value which determines our human value, it is, fundamentally, the fact that every human individual belongs to the human kind. And being specifically human means that we all have certain capacities, regardless of whether or not those capacities are stunted by other factors. 

Ultimately, then, the anti-euthanasia proponent argues that it is wrong to act contrary to a human good. And, since life--so it is argued--is the the most fundamental human good, it's wrong to act contrary to life, to abandon, disparage, infringe upon it. Furthermore, an action that acts contrary to a human good is never justified by the mere fact that said action was autonomous (free, consensual). Also the idea that there is such a thing as a 'life not worth living' only makes sense if we assume that human value is determined by one's active ability to pursue human goods. But, as we just saw, the instrumental view of human value isn't morally sound. Ultimately, the anti-euthanasia proponent will argue that if human life is a human good, and if this human good has intrinsic value (as opposed to instrumental value) then it is wrong to act contrary to it. 

On a personal note, I am Catholic and find myself compelled to take a stance against euthanasia. Ultimately, our lives belong to our Creator, our lives are a gift. I'm trying trying to see if there is a good secular argument against euthanasia. I've taken a sort of Thomistic approach.  

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8/22/2017 9:21 am  #14


Re: Euthanasia for organ donation

I see your point about the consent. When I said consent I just did not mean any kind of consents. In the given examples, I would not accept the given consents as sane consents. I would say these people are in a situation where they are not able to give consent. (another example is a drunk girl who gives consent to sex while being drunk). I think generally people would freely choose good and therefore that is why I took consent as a shortcut. However, this would mean as you say that consent should be followed by understanding of good. Having said that It seems to me that consent given in the case of euthanasia satisfies the mentioned criterion.
 
The reason that we are saying that life is not worth living is not because they cannot pursue human good, it is rather because they can be going under agonizing pain. The pain itself is why we opt for euthanasia. Aside from that minor issue, the biggest issue for me is that you seem to assume that human life regardless of any circumstances has the highest value (or is the highest good) which does not seem justified to me. A similar quesion that comes to mind is the morality of Coup de Grace. Is it moral or immoral?

On your personal note, I have a small advice. I had been in the same position as you and so I was taking a stance and then was trying to justify it. Regardless of what I, you, David Oderberg and anyone else say about the truth, the truth is not going to change. Truth remains the same. Also, many people would claim to know God but actually have no idea of God. People want to please God but don’t know what would please God.

Note: No worries for late response. I hope everything gets well soon. 
I'm at the moment very busy so this is just the essence of my reply. I have some objections regarding your argument about Instrumental and intrinsic value. I hope I can give a complete reply on weekend.

Last edited by nojoum (8/22/2017 10:45 am)

 

8/24/2017 12:28 pm  #15


Re: Euthanasia for organ donation

nojoum wrote:

However, this would mean as you say that consent should be followed by understanding of good. Having said that It seems to me that consent given in the case of euthanasia satisfies the mentioned criterion.

What I was trying to get at was that freely consenting to a certain act does not necessarily make that act right or wrong. Consent (or autonomy as I put it) is irrelevant to the moral status of an act. Moral judgement of an act is determined by whether the act is directed towards or contrary to the human good. I suppose one could say that euthanasia can be seen as morally right if we view it as an alleviation from suffering, in the same way surgery can relieve back pain, or a tooth drill can relieve one from the ache of a cavity. In all of these cases there is pain and then it is resolved. However, in the latter two the procedures are directed towards not just pain alleviation, but rather the good of health in general. The pain is merely an indicator that something needs to be healed, that something needs to be addressed lest the issue worsens and the good of health is diminished. So the surgeon and the dentist does their best to secure the human good of health by carrying out their respective procedures. The pain is alleviated, but this is merely a side effect of the entire procedure, not its aim--its aim is to secure the health of the individual, and by doing so, yes, pain is alleviated.

With euthanasia, there is a sense (especially if you believe in consciousness after death) in which one is alleviated from pain. But unlike the latter two cases, the alleviation of pain with regards to euthanasia doesn't indicate that a human good has been secured. For instance, when you say you have a cavity and the dentist tells you he'll drill it out, not just because its painfully annoying for you, but ultimately because if you don't it may jeopardize your health, he is pointing out that in order to secure the human good of health, he will conduct a procedure that will result in pain alleviation. But, as already mentioned, the ultimate goal isn't pain alleviation, it's the security of your health. In euthanasia's case there is pain alleviation but there isn't a securing of any human good. One loses the basic good of human life. Now, as I think is becoming more prevalent, the role of medicine these days seems to just be one of pain alleviation and comfort. I think pain alleviation and comfort are good things but I don't think they're the full picture--when one alleviates pain in the medical field it's in service of preserving human health and, in some cases, life itself.

Comfort and pain alleviation are not goods in themselves. The person who ODs himself every night in order to suppress emotional and physical pain, is not doing something right, he is not doing something good for himself. He's jeopardizing his health. Like consent/autonomy, pain alleviation and comfort have to be placed within the strictures of the human good.

nojoum wrote:

The reason that we are saying that life is not worth living is not because they cannot pursue human good, it is rather because they can be going under agonizing pain. The pain itself is why we opt for euthanasia. Aside from that minor issue, the biggest issue for me is that you seem to assume that human life regardless of any circumstances has the highest value (or is the highest good) which does not seem justified to me. A similar quesion that comes to mind is the morality of Coup de Grace. Is it moral or immoral? 

This is I think is the strongest case for euthanasia, and the one that I am most sympathetic towards. Though, I would argue this: Why can't we work to alleviate the pain without trying to kill the patient? Even if the alleviation won't bring the person back to their former healthy condition, we would be providing them with a comfortable last few moments on earth without intentionally depriving them of the basic human good. Of course one could argue that there are those rare cases where pain treatment isn't entirely effective. I'll agree, this makes the situation harder, but I think it would be unwise to construct an entire system of ethics off of the exceptional cases.

With regards to the Coup de Grace, I find this a very difficult situation. I can't give you a straight answer right now.

nojoum wrote:

On your personal note, I have a small advice. I had been in the same position as you and so I was taking a stance and then was trying to justify it. Regardless of what I, you, David Oderberg and anyone else say about the truth, the truth is not going to change. Truth remains the same. Also, many people would claim to know God but actually have no idea of God. People want to please God but don’t know what would please God.

This is absolutely correct--truth is independent of one's feelings or opinions, it is wholly objective. My stance on euthanasia is in line with Catholic teaching, and I don't think I have the time or energy right now to make a case for the Resurrection, the establishment of an ancient Church that continues to today, and the authority of this Church from Christ. So my stance isn't as doctrinaire as it may come off as (thought it is Catholic doctrine)--rather, my stance is an outflow of my conviction in the Catholic church as The Church, a supreme authority from God to the finite. This is something I have come to realize over the course of several years (and am perhaps still realizing).  

nojoum wrote:

Note: No worries for late response. I hope everything gets well soon. 
I'm at the moment very busy so this is just the essence of my reply. I have some objections regarding your argument about Instrumental and intrinsic value. I hope I can give a complete reply on weekend.

Thanks. I probably will be more or less inactive in the following few weeks, as I fear these real life issues are getting worse and I need to address them which will affect me (as it already has) with a considerable amount of stress and worry.
 

Last edited by RomanJoe (8/24/2017 1:28 pm)

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