Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Kantian View Thanks To Essay

Length: 3 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Business - Ethics Type: Essay Paper: #80307457 Related Topics: Physician, Assisted Suicide, Deontology, Ethical Egoism
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Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Kantian View

Thanks to modern developments in medical technology, people in advanced countries today live longer and stay healthy until they are relatively older. The technology, however, also allows some people to hasten their death and make it relatively pain-free. As a result, many patients suffering from unbearable pain of certain incurable illnesses from time to time ask their physicians to help them commit suicide. Any physician who is asked to do this is under an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, the physician is asked to help relieve one from pain and suffering. On the other hand, by helping a patient commit suicide the physician is assisting someone to commit murder even if it is the case of self-murder. This ethical case known as Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) is a controversial topic in the United States and elsewhere. Since it is an ethical issue, one way of resolving the dilemma is to evaluate the morality of PAS from the perspective of classical and other ethical theories. Among these are utilitarianism, deontology,


With the exception of deontology, any of these theories can be used to justify PAS easily. Deontology is the only view that places strong moral limitations on the application of PAS. Deontology's most prominent proponent Immanuel Kant strongly opposed suicide. However, the core principles of deontology may justify physician-assisted suicide though it places severe limitations on the application of it. This view is the closest to the view of this author since, with the exception of deontology, all other ethical views may be easily manipulated for abuse.

Of the ethical views mentioned earlier, the Kantian view of deontology has the strongest moral ground. Other views may justify PAS far too easily although those views can also be used for anti-PAS arguments. For instance, there are some who oppose PAS on utilitarian grounds but it is generally agreed that utilitarian argument for allowing PAS is strong (Singer, 2003). Utilitarianism suggests that providing the greatest good for the greateest majority is the most ethical position in a society. Since physician-assisted suicide relieves the suffering of the patient and frees the physician from the burden of helplessly witnessing another person suffer continuously, the physician is justified to assist the patient commit suicide on utilitarian grounds. The problem with utilitarian justification, however, is that it may lead to abuses by either the physician or the larger society that sanctions PAS. As for the virtue ethics view, it cannot resolve the ethical dilemma of PAS since this view is not based on the morality of the act but on the virtuousness of the person committing an act -- in this case, the physician. If the physician is considered virtuous, PAS may be justified regardless of other factors -- which, again, may lead to abuses.

The other three views cannot resolve the ethical dilemma of PAS either. Relativism cannot resolve this issue because relativism in general has a slippery ethical position. It suggests that the morality of an act, a belief, or a value should be judged from the perspective of a given culture, society, or an individual. Though there are merits of this view, it has a weak ground on so many levels. For example, is the humanity to judge slavery practiced in a given society solely based on the value system of that society? What if slavery is considered "acceptable" in that society? In the case of PAS, relativism would suggest it is acceptable if the larger society considers it acceptable. It may even suggest the patient's…

Sources Used in Documents:


Behuniak, S. (2011). Death with "dignity": The wedge that divides the disability rights movement from the right to die movement. Politics & The Life Sciences, 30(1), 17-32.

Brassington, I. (2006). Killing people: what Kant could have said about suicide and euthanasia but did not. Journal Of Medical Ethics, 32(10), 571-574.

Dickinson, G.E., Clark, D., Winslow, M., & Marples, R. (2005). U.S. physicians' attitudes concerning euthanasia and physician-assisted death: A systematic literature review. Mortality, 10(1), 43-52. doi:10.1080/13576270500030982

Gunderson, M. (2004). A Kantian View of Suicide and End-of-Life Treatment. Journal Of Social Philosophy, 35(2), 277-287. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9833.2004.00232.x.

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