Euthanasia is something that I have always learned to be wrong. I think I just went with that way of thinking of it as wrong because I did not realize all that it really entails. In my mind, and in the minds of some of the author’s we have studied, active and passive euthanasia are two very different things. This difference is something that I have known but just recently really thought more deeply into. I would argue that active euthanasia is wrong because it is interfering with the natural progression of life. However, passive euthanasia is not really intentionally doing anything negative.
In class, the presenter on J. Rachel’s “Active and Passive Euthanasia” cited an example to differentiate active and passive euthanasia that I did not think to be a reasonable or relative metaphor for the subject. She described active euthanasia as a man drowning a young child in the bathtub and passive euthanasia as man seeing a young child drowning yet refraining from doing anything. The reasoning behind each man’s action is said to be that the young boy’s life is a road block to the respective killer’s collection of his family’s inheritance. These situations are both men killing/not saving a boy out of their selfish desires. Of course some people may choose to euthanize their parents or grandparents because it is most the convenient option since the elderly person would be taking up time and money and would not be a productive member of the family, but this young boy would have potential to live a long life full of prosperity. The killers would be acting with the goal of personal gain.
When considering euthanasia for a family member, one would most likely be doing so because it is in the best interest of the sick person. Whether the family is considering active or passive euthanasia, it is still much different than the comparison proposed by Rachel. Allowing an otherwise healthy child to drown with a selfish motive is simply evil, however, discontinuing medical treatment of your 97 year old grandmother to “put her out of her misery” is not.
If I was faced with the duty of deciding the fate (for lack of a better word) of a loved one, I would really have to consider all aspects of the situation. I am almost 100% sure that I would under no circumstances permit an active form of euthanasia. However, whether or not I would permit a passive euthanasia would depend on the potential quality of life they have. If my mother was injured in a car accident or was terminally ill and she could potentially live but with little brain activity or a very poor quality of life, I would order the physicians to cease treatment. I would do this for any family member or friend of whom I was granted power of attorney and they had not asked me to decide otherwise. I think it is important to have this conversation with our loved ones while they are healthy so their wishes regarding their “fate” are clear and known.