Writer’s Choice Essay

Based upon the definitions and criteria provided below, offer arguments for or against the permissibility of one of the following four kinds of euthanasia: active voluntary, active nonvoluntary, passive voluntary, and passive nonvoluntary euthanasia.

I. Definition of Euthanasia: Intentionally bringing about (whether directly or indirectly) the death of another person for that person’s sake.

Two ways of differentiating types of Euthanasia:

A. In terms of the causal relationship of one intentionally bringing about the death to the person who dies as a result:

1. Active euthanasia: Intentionally bringing about the death of another person for that person’s sake by performing an action that directly causes that person to die.

2. Passive euthanasia: Intentionally bringing about the death of another person for that person’s sake by allowing that person to die by not doing something that would prolong life.

B. In terms of the patient’s consent:

1. Voluntary euthanasia: Death brought about because the competent patient voluntarily requests or agrees to euthanasia, communicating her wishes either while competent or through instructions to be followed if she becomes incompetent (an advanced directive).

2. Nonvoluntary euthanasia: Death brought about when the patient is not competent to choose death for herself and has not previously disclosed her preferences.

3. Involuntary euthanasia: Death brought about against the patient’s will or without asking for her consent while she is competent to decide.

II. Six kinds of euthanasia (based on the previous two modes of differentiation):

1. Active voluntary euthanasia: Intentionally bringing about the death of another person for that person’s sake by performing an action that directly causes that person to die because the competent patient voluntarily requests or agrees to euthanasia, communicating her wishes either while competent or through instructions to be followed if she becomes incompetent.

2. Active nonvoluntary euthanasia: Intentionally bringing about the death of another person for that person’s sake by performing an action that directly causes that person to die when the patient is not competent to choose death for herself and has not previously disclosed her preferences.

3. Passive voluntary euthanasia: Intentionally bringing about the death of another person for that person’s sake by allowing that person to die by not doing something that would prolong life because the competent patient voluntarily requests or agrees to euthanasia, communicating her wishes either while competent or through instructions to be followed if she becomes incompetent.

4. Passive nonvoluntary euthanasia: Intentionally bringing about the death of another person for that person’s sake by allowing that person to die by not doing something that would prolong life when the patient is not competent to choose death for herself and has not previously disclosed her preferences.

5. Active involuntary euthanasia

6. Passive involuntary euthanasia

III. Further distinctions:

A. Physician-assisted suicide: A patient’s death intentionally brought about by herself with the assistance of a physician.

B. Death brought about as a forseeable consequence of a treatment intended for some other end: Letting die but not intending the death of the patient (e.g., medicating a patient inorder to relieve pain while foreseeing that the medication will hasten the death of the patient).