Comparing Different Views On Euthanasia


Euthanasia is a controversial subject, not only because there are many different moral dilemmas associated with it, but also in what constitutes its definition. At the extreme ends of disagreement, advocates say euthanasia is a good, or merciful, death. Opposites of euthanasia say it is a fancy word for murder. The author James Rachels provides a clear argument in defense of euthanasia in his article, “The Morality of Euthanasia”. While Richard Doerflinger provides a different approach to the issue of euthanasia, with his essay “Assisted Suicide: Pro-Choice or Anti-Life”, presenting a pro-life argument elaborately illustrated with counter-arguments. Although both authors provide adequate evidence to state their claims, they don’t use the same methods of proving their views. Rachels tends to use deductive reasoning of several principals of Utilitarianism and emotion based on life experinces, while Doerflinger uses the counter-offensive approach. It becomes clear that Doerflinger’s arguments are more influential than Rachels’, yet there are certain points and instances where both philosophers fail to be convincing. The two authors in connection with each other can be compared to two brave lawyers who stand in front of the jury trying to build a good solid argument in order to successfully convince the jury and everyone else present. Yet which is the best way to precede, in order to generate this solid argument? What is the purpose of generating such an argument?
Both authors rely on their solid arguments and share the same ultimate goal to capture and convince the reader, therefore it can be said that whoever generates the best argument, will achieve the victory of public opinion. Authors who use good arguments also provide evidence to prove their contentions. This may involve the usage of a believe system, such as Utilitarianism, to prove certain arguments. Another method can be the usage of actual life examples or stories, which create strong feelings of emotion capturing the reader. Finally, an author can also disprove the opposing view in order to strengthen his own main argument. All of the aforementioned points, especially the last one, will help generate a good argument and also shape the means of a debate, which is more advanced than just an argument because it deals with opposing views.
Overall Rachels uses a logical approach to the subject of euthanasia. His argument begins with a gripping introduction of an individual who has undergone great suffering “not for the sake of indulging in gory details but to give a clear idea of the kind of suffering we are talking about” (Rachels p192). Following his introduction, Rachels presents a supporting belief by adding a Utilitarian view. He states several points about the Utilitarian view and is also careful to cover why it is not entirely viable when applied to euthanasia by exemplifying “Suppose a person is leading a miserable life” (p193). Although the Utilitarian perspective to the argument is very insightful, and applicable to the topic of euthanasia, Rachels fails to realize that by doing this he pushes himself away from other relevant arguments. Once he has done this he must also conclude his argument with the same generalization. He does achieve this in an opinionated manner by stating a modified Utilitarian contention and then ties it back to his first example of Jack. Rachels method was effective because he presents a possible formula for moral euthanasia, but becomes over generalized, and in the process losses the opportunity to address any opposing views of the subject, namely those at question in the setting of an American society.
Doerflinger’s argument stands in contrast to Rachels’ not only because of the position Doerflinger takes on the issue, but also by the technique in which he address it. Doerflinger does mention the issues at question in the setting of an American society. His argument begins with a clear standpoint on euthanasia and then he takes a seemingly digressive direction by pointing out that “debate tends to dwell not on the wrongness of the act as such but on what may follow from its acceptance”(p195). He continues his argument by declaring that these “slippery slopes” need to be discussed. This method of addressing “slippery slopes” brings the debate to another setting; it brings the debate to focus in a more professional manner